‘Master of None’ balances reflection with comedy

Noel Wells and Aziz Ansari in the Netflix original series "Master of None." K.C. Bailey / Netflix

Actor and comedian Aziz Ansari, known primarily for his role as Tom Haverford in “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015) and for his standup comedy career, reaches a broad audience with his humor and unique, enjoyable nature. Now, Ansari has his own Netflix television series, which premiered on Nov. 6.

A show by one of the funniest and well-known comedians is, inherently, held to the highest standard — and Ansari does not disappoint. “Master of None” follows 30-year-old Dev (Ansari), as he navigates life in New York as he works toward a career in acting. Viewers meet his friends, romantic interests and family and get a glimpse into the awkward, albeit entertaining, life that Dev leads. The first half-hour episode, titled “Plan B,” opens with Dev and his romantic interest, Rachel (Noël Wells) in the middle of coitus when the condom breaks. They proceed to both take out their smartphones and argue as to whether or not the broken condom is a big deal, pulling up web pages and comparing notes. The scene is realistically awkward, which isn’t something viewers often get to see on television.

This scene sets the tone for the rest of the episode, in which Dev, after bumping into an old hookup who now has a child, wonders whether he wants children or not. He babysits two children for the day as a favor to his friend, and they are, frankly, terrors. Dev realizes quite quickly that he is not — at least now — dad material. This first episode briefly introduces viewers to Dev’s circle of friends and his personality. It’s clear from this first episode that, although much of the humor is loud and in your face, the show incorporates a lot of small comedic details that, though easy to overlook, should be appreciated. For example, when Dev and Rachel rush out to their local pharmacy to get the Plan B pill in an Uber, their driver proceeds to blast rap music, sensing how uncomfortable the couple seems together.

The second episode is really where the show takes off. Viewers meet Dev’s parents, played by Shoukath and Fatima Ansari, Ansari’s actual parents, as well as his friend Brian’s dad (Clem Cheung) — all three of whom are immigrants. In parallel interactions between Dev and Brian (Kelvin Yu) and their respective parents, the latter ask for some assistant on an errand. Both sons say that they are too busy and are going to see a movie, so they can’t be of any help, truth is, they could definitely have. 

These scenes cut to flashbacks of the parents’ upbringings. During a parent-child double date of sorts, Dev and Brian ask their parents about their upbringings and how they liked immigrating to the States. When Dev asks his mother how her first day in America was, she responds by saying that she sat on the couch and cried, afraid to answer the telephone because she feared no one would understand her accent. Though the show is meant to be a comedy, it’s episodes like this that make it more complex than just a campy, entertaining show. The comedy tackles thought-provoking topics like the cultural differences and emotional distances that can arise between immigrant parents and their first-generation children. “Master of None” is able to strike a balance between more involved topics and the light, comic fare.

Though even this reviewer was excited for Ansari to get his own show, the real stars of the show are Dev’s and Brian’s parents. Even though neither of Ansari’s parents had prior acting experience, they are both hilarious. They, of course, don’t have the technical acting skills that other actors and actresses might, but they have the genuine chemistry with their son that is impossible to replicate. Everything about the show is realistic, which is what makes it refreshing.

So far, there hadn’t been a dull moment in the first season of “Master of None.” Hopefully, the rest of the season will only get better from here.


Summary

Aziz Ansari portrays a realistic and entertaining life of an average, struggling actor in his newest show, "Master of None."

3.5 stars
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