Master of None first season review
Looking for that Friends money
Finding success on television for the better part of a decade made stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari (“Parks and Recreation,” “Human Giant”) a household name and a familiar face in the comedy realm. Netflix, the corporate giant that endlessly researches what viewers want, decided to give the seasoned TV star creative control of his own series—presumably reacting to their endless studying. Last year, the streaming colossus gave Ansari (among other comedians) a stand-up special not unlike major cable networks Comedy Central and Bravo. They’ve collaborated again and the result is “Master of None,” a fresh, realistic sitcom in the vein of “Louie” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that’s equally hilarious and deeply personal for the established actor.
Unlike Larry David and Louis C.K., Ansari plays a character with a different name, “Dev,” as opposed to a version of himself adjusted for television. It quickly becomes clear, however, that a lot of Ansari manifests in Dev, a first generation Indian-American actor living in New York City trying to gain momentum in the entertainment industry. As Dev navigates the New York acting scene, we recognize his dilemmas and learn his perspective through a truthful lens reminiscent of Louis C.K. with the knack for comedy of Larry David. Ansari portrays his character as selfish many times, but also grants the same character room to grow and improve—a theme that becomes apparent throughout the course of all ten episodes. Dev knows that he isn’t the best son or boyfriend, but also recognizes that he has the capacity and ability to improve. Ansari tackles personal, emotional issues in each episode, but also tries to find the humor at every opportunity when discussing parents, the elderly, Indians in pop culture, dating, sex, and the difference between single men and single women.
Ansari naturally plays Dev well as the character is essentially a version of the comedian, but the extended cast also turns in some laugh-inducing performances in addition to surprising cameos from stars like Busta Rhymes, Claire Danes, David Krumholtz, Colin Salmon, Danielle Brooks, H. Jon Benjamin, and Father John Misty. Noël Wells (“Saturday Night Live,” Forev) co-stars as Dev’s romantic interest, Rachel, a fellow New Yorker who works in the music industry. Dev and Rachel spend a good amount of time pondering how normal (or not) their relationship is for the present age as their paths awkwardly cross once before investing effort in each other. Comic Eric Wareheim (“Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!,” “Tom Goes to the Mayor”) plays Dev’s buddy Arnold and provides most of the laughs when he shows up on screen. The city of New York also becomes a sort of character, seeming to serve Dev’s present episode/ situation: dating, aging, race, work, etc.
The most surprising bit of casting is undoubtedly Ansari’s real-life parents, Shoukath and Fatima Ansari, as his television parents. Shoukath Ansari steals every scene where he appears as Dev’s father, Ramesh, inciting laughter as an “every-dad.” One wouldn’t initially guess he spends his days as a gastroenterologist with his natural comedic timing. It would certainly seem incomplete understanding Dev’s situation without including his parents, and the comedian includes his own parents—allowing the audience to understand him and his journey beyond the show. The idea works, too, seeing how delightful and supportive his parents are every step of the way as he chases the American dream.
Throughout the first season, Dev lands his first acting gig beyond his break in a Go-Gurt commercial. He plays a scientist in a B-horror-movie called The Sickening and overcomes a jerk director, eccentric co-stars, and deleted scenes. The main character also auditions for other acting jobs but faces particular obstacles that stand in the way of his success despite obvious talent. The Sickening, for the record, would make for a bona fide B-movie cult hit with that same cast and plot (Netflix, kindly make this happen).
Netflix entrusts a television veteran with his own comedy/ drama series in “Master of None.” Aziz Ansari creates a personal, relentlessly funny show about his tribulations and successes in the present age. It’s certainly a show made by the author of Modern Romance. The comedic actor also credits late friend Harris Wittles as a producer in addition to casting his real-life parents as his television parents to demonstrate just how much of himself he poured into his new project. Fans of Ansari and those familiar with the entertainment industry certainly shouldn’t miss the newest Netflix Instant Streaming original series.