Speaking for Ourselves

'Kate and Koji' is corny but very welcome

'Kate and Koji' is corny but very welcome

Daniel Nelson

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - 'Kate and Koji' is corny but very welcome

In the latest of our occasional commentaries on the coverage of migration in the media, Daniel Nelson looks at ITV's Kate and Koji.


A second sympathetic sitcom about an asylum-seeker is now screening on prime time TV. Should we applaud or boo?

The first, Home, was about a Syrian who smuggles his way into a suburban family home by stowing away in their car boot. The new comedy, Kate and Koji, is set in an English seaside caff and is built around a West African doctor.

The principal characters are an unlikely couple: Koji is educated, straight-laced a bit pompous, and has lied in order to apply for asylum; caff-owner Kate is working-class, down-to-earth and prejudiced: “There’s four things in life I hate: scroungers, foreigners, doctors and posh people.”

As soon as Koji in his impeccable three-piece suit reveals his medical skills, customers start flooding the caff, dissatisfied with their GPs and seeking advice (or someone to talk to).

Kate - standing resolutely against the cappuccino café competition down the road - realises that this could boost business.

A deal is struck, baked beans and endless cuppas in return for the doc dishing out advice.

Yes, it’s full of stereotypes and it’s far more limited in scope, cornier and less subtle than Home, which managed to deal with serious issues and be genuinely moving.

But the lead character is an educated African, just as Sami in Home is a cultured teacher. You don’t get many of those on mainstream TV. And as the story unravels you understand why – on £37.50 a week – he might be grateful for an occasional free cuppa, and why he had to lie in order to claim asylum, and why he is terrified of even a small incident or an unwary word that could jeopardise his situation.

If this sort of comedy isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll dismiss it as trivial and lacking in political analysis. But so is most television, and yet it’s hugely influential in shaping public opinion – 5.1 million viewers tuning in for the first instalment, with more watching the repeat and on ITV Hub. 

If hostility to migrants and migrants is to be challenged and re-made, mainstream television must be an important part of the campaign. Letters to The Guardian and academic treatises won’t get the job done.


* Kate and Koji is on ITV at 8pm, Wednesdays; repeats on Tuesday evenings; available on https://www.itv.com/hub/itv ITV Hub. Info: https://www.itv.com/hub/kate-koji/2a7658