XO, Kitty is attracting Netflix viewers in droves with love triangles, quadrangles and shapes of all kinds. The spinoff series off To All the Boys I've Loved Before premiered on Thursday (May 18) and has skyrocketed up No. 3 on Netflix's Top 10 TV shows chart. It sits behind Selling Sunset season 6 in the top spot, and the long-running procedural S.W.A.T..
Also created by TATBIL's Jenny Han, the show follows Kitty Song Covey (Anna Cathcart), the matchmaking younger sister of Lara Jean, as she embarks on her own romantic adventure in Seoul. XO, Kitty is a smart mash-up of American and South Korean teen dramas, considering Korean entertainment's explosion in popularity.
As far as reviews, XO, Kitty has earned a solid 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though the audience score is at a lower 57%.
So, is XO, Kitty worth watching? Let's break it down.
What is XO, Kitty about?
Kitty Song Covey is a rising junior who decides she wants to transfer to the prestigious Korean International School of Seoul (which has the cute acronym KISS). Her reasons are twofold: One, to reunite with her long-distance boyfriend Dae (Choi Min-young), and two, to reconnect with her heritage and walk in the steps of her deceased mother.
But when she arrives in Korea, Kitty is a fish out of water who can barely speak the language. She's snubbed by students and teachers alike, including the formidable Principal Jina Lim (Yunjin Kim). Worse, when she finally sees Dae, she's crushed to learn he apparently has a girlfriend, wealthy queen bee Yuri Han (Gia Kim).
Things aren't exactly what they seem, though, so Kitty stays at KISS. She makes a friend, fellow expat Q (Anthony Keyvan) and frenemy Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee). But classes are harder than they seem and Professor Lee (Michael K. Lee) sends her to get tutoring for the very first time. At least, the new Korean-Australian professor Alex (Peter Thurnwald) seems nice.
Kitty's romantic and academic travails are further complicated by the discovery of her mother's long-buried secrets. She may be a talented matchmaker, but Kitty learns she doesn't know everything about love.
XO, Kitty reviews: What critics and audience members say
Critics are generally positive about XO, Kitty, bestowing an 82% overall rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences are more lukewarm.
The Hollywood Reporter's Angie Han calls the show "a pretty, fluffy cupcake of a romance." Han adds it "lacks some of the intense chemistry of its predecessors, but makes up for it with a fresh playfulness befitting its sunny heroine."
Janelle Zara of The Guardian writes, "Prestige television XO, Kitty is not, but its charming cast is worth revisiting next semester."
Decider's Joel Keller says "XO, Kitty works because Cathcart knows Kitty very well at this point, the story takes turns that aren’t the usual artificial romcom plot contrivances."
Lauren Chval at The AV Club feels that "things feel a little clunky at first" and "our protagonist grates on everyone around her, including the audience." Still, Chval notes, "By the end of episode five, it starts to come together and you can feel the Han magic kicking in."
Audience members are divided. Jonhel S. raves, "I really thought this show would be just a cheesy romance about a girl who wants to be with her boyfriend. But there's more to it."
But Crystal S. says, "This was cringe from start to finish." Emily G. is more in the middle, writing, "While it didn't completely miss the mark, it felt like production was rushed. Storyline is banal and characters are undeveloped."
XO, Kitty: Stream or skip?
If you're in the mood for a frothy, not-too-deep but also not-too-slight teen romance, XO, Kitty more than fits the bill.
Having seen the entire first season, I give it my stamp of approval. While Kitty as the lead isn't as likable or appealing as Lara Jean, she's also more complex and interesting.
As a series rather than a movie, XO, Kitty has more room to develop supporting characters and spin out different plots. Yuri is fantastic, and her storyline about her sexuality and family is as central to the show as Kitty romances.
With 10 episodes running around half an hour each, it's easy to binge the entire season in a day. The great cast and fun Seoul setting are worth the time. I'm already waiting for XO, Kitty season 2.