Popular ‘90s Malaysian sitcom ‘Kopitiam’ gets reboot 15 years later (VIDEO)

‘Kopitiam: Double Shot’ stars (from left) Melissa Campbell, Charles Roberts, Sharifah Amani, Douglas Lim, Rashid Salleh and Harvinth Skin. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
‘Kopitiam: Double Shot’ stars (from left) Melissa Campbell, Charles Roberts, Sharifah Amani, Douglas Lim, Rashid Salleh and Harvinth Skin. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

PETALING JAYA, Nov 20 — 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.”

Mano Maniam said ‘Kopitiam’ is a comedic representation of Malaysian reality. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Mano Maniam said ‘Kopitiam’ is a comedic representation of Malaysian reality. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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.”

Sharifah Amani plays Alia in the reboot, a newly retrenched millennial who runs the coffee shop. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Sharifah Amani plays Alia in the reboot, a newly retrenched millennial who runs the coffee shop. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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.

“As a Bangsar girl who always got made fun of for speaking English too much, it sucked growing up being able to speak English.

“Then suddenly you turn on the TV and there are people who are like you — multiracial, bilingual and funny, I loved Kopitiam for that,” the actress said.

Amani said she made a conscious effort to include Bahasa Melayu whenever she could in her character Alia’s lines.

While the 33-year-old Motif actress is known for films such as Sepet and the recent crime thriller, fans will get to see a different side of the actress.

“People who know me, my family members and my loved ones, know that I am the clown,” she said.

“I’ve done a few comedy works — I think comedy is harder than drama, it is harder to make somebody laugh than it is to make them cry.”

The actress also admitted that doing a sitcom was nerve-wracking, especially when one is up against seasoned comedian Douglas Lim.

Melissa Campbell remembers her Scottish dad watching the series when she was growing up. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Melissa Campbell remembers her Scottish dad watching the series when she was growing up. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Campbell who plays Amani’s on-screen best friend also spoke of nerves of a different kind, one that comes with starring in an iconic series.

“I feel a lot of pressure because I want to do right by the story and a lot of people were involved in this for a long time and have come back again so I want to do right by them and do right by the fans,” said Campbell.

The actress who shot to fame playing Princess Fa-Ying in the 1999 Hollywood film Anna and the King said she had fond memories of the popular sitcom.

“My dad is from Scotland, so his Malay was not very good and this was one of the only English sitcoms that was on TV that time on ntv7.

“He used to watch it and I remember it being on,” said Campbell.

Kopitiam: Double Shot airs November 28 with two back-to-back episodes on Thursday, exclusively on Viu.

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