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Iconic English sitcom Kopitiam returns with a stronger serving from Viu. Pictured are (seated from left) Harvinth, Melissa Campbell, Charles Roberts, (standing from left) Douglas Lim, Sharifah Amani and Rashid Salleh. (Pic by NSTP/MAHZIR MAT ISA)

IT was the premiere local English sitcom back in the 1990s. Taking its moniker from the Hokkien word, it made Kopitiam a household name and presented a space to showcase slices of Malaysian life, issues and relationships through side-splitting comedy.

After seven hilarious seasons on ntv7 from 1998 to 2003, the seminal show set in a coffee shop is back with 10 new episodes, produced by Motion Content Group and Double Vision.

Simply titled Kopitiam: Double Shot, it's currently available on the Viu streaming platform.

When met recently for a chat on the show, its returning stars, Rashid Salleh and Douglas Lim, were naturally feeling nostalgic about the exciting endeavour.

"We were just young pups when the show first aired. And never in our wildest dreams did we expect that it would take off the way it did. That was just mind-blowing," said an enthusiastic Rashid.

"Yeah, I was only 19 years old and it was my first acting job so I didn't know a thing. But I'm really grateful for the opportunity and experience, which basically launched my career in show business," added Lim.

Back then, it was sort of a phenomenon and Rashid let on that its mass appeal was also staggering.

"Lots of people watched it and not just the urban English-speaking crowd mind you, even the mak cik, pak cik and youngsters in rural areas. I guess it was because the show was such a rarity, being in English," he said.

During the 1990s, there were more Malay language sitcoms, such as 2+1, Jangan Ketawa and Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu, but only one English comedy show on TV.

 

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING

Aside from Rashid and Lim playing wannabe thespian Jo and flamboyant hairdresser Steven respectively, the original Kopitiam cast also saw Joanna Bessey as coffee-shop owner Marie and Lina Teoh as the saucy Singaporean lawyer named Susan.

Rounding up the motley crew were the grumpy odd couple of Uncle Chan (Mano Maniam) and Uncle Kong (Tan Jin Chor), who were Marie's late father's good friends.

The funny exploits of the various characters are continued in the new series.

"The whole gang is back, we wouldn't have it any other way. But Douglas and I will be kind of the linchpin to this brand new outing. The rest will appear as guest stars," said Rashid.

Lim, 42, explained that it took about 15 years to find the right time, people and production to get the further adventures of Kopitiam off the ground.

"We wanted the right people and environment before we committed to anything since this series was very dear to all of us and the fans as well. This was the right moment. Everyone was available and the stories are great. Everything then just fell into place," he said.

 

ONGOING LEGACY

The popular stand-up comedian, who also co-wrote the scripts for the episodes, added that there would be a passing of the torch to the next generation.

Rashid, 47, chimed in: “We wanted to continue the legacy of this show for the older fans but also to present it to younger viewers."

"It's surreal for me because when I started on this show Douglas and I were the young 'cikus' but now we're considered the veterans," said the actor and sports commentator, who was last seen in the action movie Sangkar.

"This is a new era. So even though the series follows the old format somewhat, there are new issues, new conflicts and of course new blood to reflect our contemporary times," said Lim.

Directed by Imri Nasution, the reboot of sorts also stars Sharifah Amani as the recently-retrenched Alia, Melissa Campbell as her best friend Seleb, Harvinth Skin as a young cook named Tim and Charles Roberts as Baboo the new help from Bangladesh.

"Everyone has ideas on how to sustain the coffee-shop and to make it profitable so there's a bit of a generational clash between the millennials and the older folk," said Rashid.

He added: "It doesn't help that there are some things going on between Jo and Steven as well. But we don't want to give away too much."

 

RELATABLE BLEND

Amani who was also present, said that she grew up watching Kopitiam.

"I was considered weird back then since I spoke a lot in English or Manglish, whatever. But I could relate to Kopitiam which was an English language sitcom. So I grew up in Bangsar watching it and I found comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only weird one," said the 33-year-old star of Sepet and Motif before letting out a gregarious laugh.

"It was also one of the few shows that transcended age, race and religion, so that was really great. Now, to be one the show that I grew up with is just unbelievable. It's been a fantastic experience."

Amani, who is known for her onscreen and onstage dramatic roles, confessed that it was a challenge to work with the cast.

"They're very funny on set. They work hard but also know how to have fun. Douglas is such a great stand-up comedian so I was initially a little intimidated by him but it all worked out fine."

"The technical aspects, like the multiple camera setup, were a breeze since I've had experience doing theatre but doing comedy is hard."

"It's a challenge to make people laugh and I've never really done a lot of comedy before, so it's nice to show viewers a different side of me," she said.

She added: "Those who know me closely say I'm a funny person with a wicked sense of humour. Let's hope that translates well to the screen."

 

RELATIONSHIP STATUS

During the chat, Campbell also revealed her nervousness in being a part of the well-loved series.

"It's daunting and I felt a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations of the people involved and the fans too as this series means to a lot to all of them."

The 28-year-old actress of Scottish and Chinese added that it was an honour to be chosen to play a new character in the popular series.

"I play a ditzy character but she has a heart of gold. She's the best friend of Sharifah Amani's character and always has her back despite their differences."

"There will be some things happening along the way and I hope viewers will find their relationship engaging," said Campbell, who found fame via her role as Princess Fa-Ying in the Hollywood movie, Anna And The King, back in 1999.

Viewers will also recognise her from her starring role in the recent crime comedy series, Keluarga Baha Don, which is available on Viu as well.

The actress confessed that although she was not really familiar with Kopitiam back then, she had fond memories of it since her father used to follow the iconic series.

"Through my father, that's how I remember the show while growing up."

Campbell added that the new show will have something for everyone.

"The old fans will have fun watching the original cast coming back together, that's for sure. But there will also be situations, friendships and issues that will appeal to the younger generation and the new viewers," she said.

 

Catch two back-to-back episodes of Kopitiam: Double Shot every Thursday on Viu.

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