Review: Second Jen 1×1-1×2 (Canada: City)

Best friends shouldn't work together

In Canada: Thursdays, 8.30pm ET/PT, City

I’m thinking of banning all best friends from writing and starring in TV shows together. The litany of TV shows that are terribly, terribly amusing for those appearing in them but terribly, terribly tedious for those watching them is long and indeed terrible: Doll and EmBest Friends ForeverPlaying House, Idiotsitter and now Second Jen from Canada’s City network.

The title is a pun, since it’s about two Asian-Canadian women, both of them second-generation immigrants, both of them called Jen. Doesn’t quite work, though, does it? I mean, who’s the second one? Two Jens would be accurate; Second Jen is something that’s trying to be clever but that can’t quite work out how to do the pun and make the format fit, so just leaves it in a halfway house between clever and funny where it’s actually neither.

How apt.

The two best friends, a Filipina-Canadian (Amanda Joy) and a Chinese-Canadian (Samantha Wan), decide to move in together to try to escape their overbearing families. And next door to them are a couple of cute young hipsters (Munro Chambers and Al Mukadam). Who knows? Maybe there’ll be romance between the four low IQ millennials, as well as a bit of culture-clash comedy – perhaps about authentic Chinese cusine and its propensity to include unappetising bits of animal? That’s new, isn’t it?

Gosh, what fun they seem to be having together. So much fun. So much appreciation of their own jokes. So much obvious willing of the audience to laugh at what the two of them think is funny. So much hammy acting by everyone in the cast to let the audience know they’re watching a comedy, just in case.

Maybe some of the audience is laughing at yet another overbearing Asian tiger mum character (Janet Lo) who uses food and passive aggressive conversation to control her kids while her husband (Richard Tse) literally never says a word. Ever. How amusing it is for everyone that he never says anything, while everyone keeps going on about how chatty he is. That joke never once got old over the course of the first two episodes. Maybe some of the audience is laughing, too. But I doubt it.

Kudos at least to City for giving a sitcom about two young Asian-Canadian women a chance; kudos also to both Joy and Wan for having the wherewithal to write the pilot and make it, after getting bored of having to auditioning for the same old stereotypical roles.

But seriously, don’t let best friends write in and star in TV shows together. Write in. Star in. Not both. Because the only ones laughing will be the friends.