Is Kate and Koji (ITV) the most woke show on TV? This is confusing. The writers seem to be aiming for some sort of old-school heartwarming comedy, Open All Hours, but every few minutes one of the characters will deliver a solemn lecture about the government’s terrible treatment of asylum seekers.
That character is Dan, played by Blake Harrison, nephew of Kate (Brenda Blethyn), owner of a seaside cafe. Where the other characters crack jokes, Dan rants as a particularly poignant member of the hour’s audience. questions. “The asylum seeker’s allowance is a paltry sum,” he will say, sucking up all the humor in the room.
The first series, which aired in 2020 and was a ratings success, showed Kate (example: “There are four things in life I hate: scammers, strangers, doctors and posh people “) having his eyes opened by Koji, who is a foreigner, a doctor, who speaks well but is absolutely not a scammer. He’s desperate to work, but stuck in miserable limbo, so he shows up at the cafe every day in his smart three-piece suit because he has nowhere to go. We are now in the second series and the pair coexist in a complicit way.
Koji was played in the first series by Jimmy Akingbola, who was replaced by Okorie Chukwu. There is no discernible difference as the character is just a collection of tics and one-liners. This is also true for all the main characters, and it’s actually the supporting cast that does the best job, primarily Barbara Flynn channeling Emily Thornberry as local councilor Lavinia.
The animosity between Kate and Lavinia is funny. But most of the gags are moan-worthy and reported from miles away. There are a few stabs in the news, such as when Kate likens a particular disappointment to “being told you’re getting an OBE and then finding out it’s presented by Prince Andrew”.
Curiously, Dan’s resounding statements are mixed with more nuanced points. The writers defend Kate against accusations of racism, asking Koji and Dan to state that her prejudices have nothing to do with skin color – she hates all kinds of people (“Austrians, vegans, Gwyneth Paltrow, people who defend Gwyneth Paltrow, chuggers, bloggers, joggers, French bulldogs, French people, bulldogs…”).
In short, there was a hint of something smarter – mocking the “awake” posture. When Lavinia wore a Black Lives Matter badge, it quickly came across as an empty gesture: “I have the right to wear this badge like anyone else. I’m committed to racial equality, just ask my cleaner. More jokes like that, and this show might actually be funny.