Hit Kate & Koji returns for its second series

Wednesday:Kate & Koji; (ITV, 9pm)

We have some good news and some bad news.

The good is that Brenda Blethyn is returning as Kate for the hit sitcom’s second series.

The bad is that Jimmy Akingbola won’t be joining her. Since the first run aired two years ago, he’s been snapped up to appear as butler Geoffrey in the reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, so is otherwise engaged.

Medium Dan, Councillor Bone, Kate, Koji and Mr Mullholland

Thankfully, rather than ditching the programme altogether, its makers have found a suitable replacement in Okorie Chukwu, whose previous projects include Luther and My Mad Fat Diary.

“I’m excited to step into the role of Koji and I can’t wait to get working with this brilliant cast of actors,” he remarked when the recasting was announced.

“I’m so pleased Kate will be welcoming her customers back into the caff,” added Blethyn. “Even the postman! I’ve missed them. So looking forward to donning the gingham apron and welcoming Okorie to our Kate & Koji family.”

For the uninitiated, the series is written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, who brought us the wonderful Outnumbered, and focuses on Kate, the owner of an old-fashioned seaside cafe in the fictional town of Seagate.

She forms an unexpected and sparky friendship with Koji, an African asylum seeker-cum-qualified doctor, who is somewhat bewildered to find himself not in bustling London, but a quiet place where, it seems, everybody else already knows each other.

At first glance the duo appear to have little in common, but they do share certain traits, including a dogged determination never to back down – something that can lead to trouble.

The characters’ first meeting didn’t go well, as Blethyn recalls: “She is a bit scathing, but she’s got the wrong idea, blaming him for sitting there [in her café] because he’s unemployed,” Blethyn begins. “But you soon discover that she’s got a heart underneath all that.”

This second run is somewhat overdue thanks to, you guessed it, the restrictions imposed by Covid-19; production was due to start in January 2021 but was pushed back. It’s been filmed in front of a live studio audience, so the laughs you hear are genuine.

Although Akingbola isn’t returning, fans will be pleased to hear that two other key members of the cast are returning to the fray alongside Blethyn – Blake Harrison reprises his role as Kate’s nephew Medium, while Barbara Flynn plays her nemesis, Councillor Bone.

“We are all very excited that Okorie has joined the show as Koji,” adds Nana Hughes, ITV’s head of scripted comedy. “Guy and Andy have, as usual, written incredibly funny scripts which Brenda and the gang bring to life brilliantly. The audience is in for a real treat.”

The new series begins as Kate and Medium are all set to receive an award thanks to the sterling work they carried out within the community during the pandemic. However, Kate decides she doesn’t want it when she discovers Councillor Bone is the presenter.

Eventually Kate relents – and is thrilled to see how uncomfortable the public servant becomes when she’s forced to be nice to her.

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