On Nov. 6, Netflix added to its ranks of highly popular original television shows with the premiere of “Master of None,”starring Aziz Ansari (“Parks and Recreation”). Ansari is also the co-creator, joining forces with “Parks and Recreation” producer, Alan Yang. However, the pairing doesn’t attempt to recreate the “Parks and Recreation” brand of humor, instead opting to make “Master of None” a much more mellow and subtle comedy. The show takes place in New York, following commercial actor, Dev (Ansari), while he grapples with everything from disastrous first dates to racism in the film industry. The show does so many things right, it’s hard to find where to begin.
Ansari, being a first generation-born Tamil Indian himself, does a brilliant job of incorporating realistic representations of race. A number of shows take place in New York, such as the popular “Girls” and “Louie,” but despite the fact the city is one of the most diverse in the world, these shows host a cast of all white characters. “Master of None” brings the real face of New York to the forefront, and the best part is it’s not just representation for representation’s sake. There are no shallowly developed stereotypes that exist to check off boxes. Instead, the show explores the characters’ ethnicities and the issues they face. One of the best episodes, “Parents,” shows Dev and his friend Brian (Kelvin Yu, “Cloverfield”) dealing with being jaded, American-born children in families of hard-working immigrants, delving into problems many first generationers face today.
The show’s biggest strength is its ability to strike a balance between hilarious and genuine. Every episode is a thick layer of humor wrapped around a little bit of heart and the result is an unexpectedly charming sincerity. The jokes are often sarcastic and awkward in the best possible way. In one episode, after learning about a close friend’s imminent divorce, Dev gives his condolences then immediately asks for the “deets” on a scented candle in the bathroom. However, the episode transitions, ending in Dev ruminating over the love and perseverance it takes to create a family.
Because of this cohabitation of soul and hilarity, the show takes a moment to find its voice. The movement between the two at first feels a bit clumsy and forced, but by the end of the first episode, it feels solidified in its style. Each beat thoughtfully progresses from off-the-wall comedy to heartwarming soul, and it’s a joy to watch.
All ten episodes of “Master of None” are now available for streaming on Netflix.