Co-created by Simu Liu (Marvel’s Shang-Chi himself!) and Nathalie Younglai, Hello (Again) is a nine episode web series starring Alex Mallari Jr. as a line cook named Jayden who falls in love with a medical resident, Avery (Rong Fu), but struggles with balancing his work and personal life. He is given the chance to fix his mistakes in a Groundhog Day-esque twist of events when a mysterious and mischievous girl (Rebecca Chan) sends him back in time.
As corny, unoriginal, and downright clunky as the premise of the show is, Hello (Again) adds a potent Asian immigrant parent–child relationship to the mix that gives emotional complexity to the storyline. The first half of the series is focused on a leaden and unevenly paced set-up — Jayden’s distant relationship to his sickly and stern Chinese father is established via a reluctant visit to his parents’ house before he bumps into Avery at a park and is instantly smitten.
Jayden and Avery’s whirlwind romance is shown through a very long montage of mementos on a fridge before culminating in their breakup. The show is then preoccupied with Jayden’s staid attempts to correct what went wrong in his romantic relationship as well as giving him a new direction in his career. Initially, he works for a Michelin-starred chef with his best friend Douggie (Araya Mengesha) but wants to open a vegan dim sum food truck — leaving the real meat and potatoes of his family drama to the very end.
The script itself is a little awkward. Jayden talks to himself a lot, turning a lot of subtext into text, which undermines Mallari’s performance. The magical girl who sends Jayden back in time is a goofy and sometimes annoying element that ties into the story by the end in an unnecessary way. It’s also rather distracting that Jayden and Douggie seem to be the only employees in the kitchen they work at and nonchalantly brush off cocaine addiction — a real problem that plagues the restaurant industry. The biggest issue, however, is how Avery is sidelined as a character so the core romance is not particularly convincing, worsened by a lack of chemistry between the two leads.
But once viewers get past those parts, there are a few bright and fun moments, like when Jayden lovingly prepares an elaborate meal for Avery or when he is featured by familiar Toronto media outlets (Now Magazine and BlogTO, of course) thanks to his thriving food truck business. There are also a few nice props and set decoration touches (it’s a known fact that every Chinese household has the same cough syrup sitting on a shelf in the kitchen).
The best parts, however, are whenever Jayden’s Filipina mother (Grace Armas) is on-screen, chastising and feeding him in the way all Asian mothers do. She also bugs him about his love life but hides bigger issues about his father’s health from him in a relatable attempt to protect him from emotional pain. She is a critical character that should have a lot more screen time than she does, but it’s something to note that the script was changed from a completely Chinese-Canadian family to include a Filipina mother once Mallari (who is Filipino) was cast.
Although Hello (Again) feels like a rehash of rom-coms that viewers have seen time and time again, the real emotional core of Asian family dynamics is timeless.
Hello (Again) is streaming on CBC Gem.