Kate & Koji, ITV
- Brian Donaldson
- 20 March 2020
Weary and weak traditional sitcom that has intolerance running through it
Kate & Koji has been compared to Rising Damp for its portrayal of a semi-ignorant Little Englander trying, and failing, to undermine a highly-educated person of colour. If you're being unkind, you might say it's also been around 40 years since ITV had its last sitcom of genuine quality. But here we are with its latest failure as Brenda Blethyn takes on the role of Kate, a lonely, ageing woman who runs a café in the fictional Seagate (which has the vibe of a Kent Leave town). Before the first five minutes are up, she's set out her stall by having a swipe at foreigners, posh people, doctors and scroungers before laying into both the BBC and veganism within a single sentence.
It's fair to say that Kate is not especially a sympathetic character, and while it's fine and well for Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin (the writing duo behind the superior likes of Outnumbered and Drop the Dead Donkey) to make her largely unappealing, giving Blethyn so many lines that are dog-tired before they have even exited her mouth is less forgivable.
As the asylum-seeking, well-spoken and nattily turned-out medic who uses the café as a refuge from his unsavoury living conditions, Jimmy Akingbola plays Koji as a vaguely arrogant individual who, in his own way, is just as unlikeable as Kate. Her nephew Dan (The Inbetweeners' Blake Harrison) acts as the buffer between their unpleasantness, managing to eke out a little bit of sociability in Koji, even when he's besting him at The Times' cryptic crossword. Meanwhile, Kate would probably be a more rabid bigot without the presence of Dan's more open worldview (still, that character's progressive standpoint is rather undermined by a pitifully weak gag about gendered toilets).
Asides from the main trio, there's a number of stock sitcom-character fodder in the guise of a dim-witted bodybuilder and the uptight council leader (Barbara Flynn) whose rivalry with Kate goes back to schooldays. Akingbola's weary attitude does render some amusing expressions and lines, but whether that's enough to inject anyone with the requisite stamina to stagger through the remaining episodes is another matter.
Episodes watched: 2 of 6
Kate & Koji airs on ITV, Wednesdays, 8pm.