Popular ‘90s Malaysian sitcom ‘Kopitiam’ gets reboot 15 years later
The Americans had Cheers and Friends, the British had Chef! and Early Doors and for Malaysians — there was Kopitiam.
Dominating television screens from 1998 to 2004, the beloved sitcom followed the lives of coffee shop owner Marie (Joanna Bessey), her late father’s two best friends Uncle Chan (Mano Maniam) and Uncle Kong (Tan Jin Chor), hairdresser Steven (Douglas Lim), aspiring actor Jo (Rashid Salleh) and Singaporean lawyer Susan (Lina Teoh).
Fast forward 15 years since its finale after seven seasons, everyone’s favourite coffee shop is back in business serving up that unmistakable brew of Malaysian humour.
This time around, the reboot centres around millennials — the newly retrenched Alia (Sharifah Amani), her childhood bestie Seleb (Melissa Campbell), witty cook Tim (Harvinth Skin) and Bangladeshi helper Baboo (Charles Roberts) — as they figure out how to run a profitable eatery.
Veteran thespian Mano only had two words to offer when he found out a reboot was in the works.
“About time,” he told Malay Mail at the series launch yesterday.
“I’m glad there’s a reconnect within the generation, so you have a storyline with Douglas and Rashid as the roles they played and there’s continuity.”
The reboot, ordered by regional streaming service Viu, establishes a link to past characters such as the bickering odd couple Uncle Kong and Uncle Chan through Tim, who is their grandson.
Mano will be making a brief appearance in the 10-part comedy series produced by Motion Content Group and Double Vision.
When the show first aired on ntv7, there was nothing quite like it, making Kopitiam the first English-language sitcom that transcended race, age, religion and creed.
“What this production did was it made the word kopitiam, a Hokkien word that means coffee shop, into a national brand,” said Mano of the show’s cultural significance.
“That spirit of sharing and mingling, fighting and holding onto your own point of view even if it meant that you become unpopular is characteristic of Malaysia — Kopitiam is a comedic representation of that reality.”
For the likes of Amani, Kopitiam offered a sense of comfort, knowing that there were other urbanites like her who conversed in the post-colonial byproduct that is Manglish, where English is mashed-up with other Malaysian languages.