Netflix’s newest original comedy series, Master of None, is a masterful work of highbrow comedy, a delicate evisceration of racial and sexual stereotypes, and a searing scrutiny of modern relationships. Yes, it punches high and lands every blow.
The series follows Dev Shah (played by Aziz Ansari), a 30-something actor in New York, as he navigates friendships, romantic relationships and acting roles. The premise may sound cliché, but Dev is merely a witness to the show’s stories told by his supporting characters.
“People don’t get that fired up about racist Asian or Indian stuff.”
Created by Ansari and Alan Young – both of Parks and Recreation fame – each episode is a blink-and-you-miss-it examination of entitlement, privilege, cultural idiosyncrasies and random tangents. Equal parts textbook comedy and self-aware-slash-meta sketch work: it’s simple and explicative, almost bordering on atheistic existentialism.
One episode offers an evaluation of the relative hardships between his father’s upbringing (Ansari’s real parents play his parents in the show) and Dev’s own, where the greatest problem the latter first-generation American fields is waiting for a video on the internet to buffer. It’s endearing and pathetic.
Meanwhile, the episode Indians on TV finds Dev and co delving into the world of passive racism in the media, drawn from Ansari’s own experience after he was asked to audition for the movie Transformers in an Indian accent, as opposed to his natural American tongue.
“Clearly she’s one of those girls who dates guys online for free food.”
The writing and the dialogue have a familiar quality, with friends unpacking complex social and racial issues around a café table or at a bar like they were casually discussing the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Ironies are acknowledged and awkward social mores exposed with rapid pace, just as the story cuts to yet another escalation of the examination at hand.
Most satisfying of all is that we’re rarely offered resolution; no salvation will be found within these stories. This facet of the series is itself a telling reminder that while human beings are capable of great feats of self-reflection and change, the reality is we usually opt to repeat our sins rather than take the hard road and atone for our mistakes.
“Yo, I think I know this girl. She DJs at my massage class sometimes and she plays a mixture of Eastern and Chill.”
Supporting characters are played by the hottest comedy talent seen in the last five years, like Eric Wareheim (Time and Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job!), Neöl Wells (SNL), H. Jon Benjamin (Archer) and Todd Barry (Louie), along with the occasional high-value cameo – can you say Claire Danes or Busta Rhymes?!
If you’re a fan of Parks and Recreation, The Office (either version), Curb Your Enthusiasm or Louie, you will love Master of None. It’s the kind of show that will have you turning with a look of fear on your face to the person next to you on the couch and asking, ‘Do I do that? I don’t do that, do I? Oh my god. I DO do that.’ Each episode is guaranteed to yield a variation of this brutal epiphany.
The first season of Master of None is available right now on Netflix.
Warning: trailer contains content some readers might find offensive.