Season two of Aziz Ansari’s critically acclaimed comedy, Master of None, hits Netflix today. I plan on binging it in its entirety this weekend and getting an overall review of it up sometime before the weekend ends. In the meantime, I thought it would be good to post a “retro review” of season one so all of you know where I stand on that season before I write about where I stand on the new one.
The following is the review I wrote for a personal blog that I used to manage two days after season one premiered on Netflix.
I knew when I first saw the trailer for Netflix’s new original series, Master of None, that I’d end up watching it. Besides the fact that the trailer made me laugh multiple times, I’m a huge fan of Aziz Ansari. I loved him on Parks and Recreation, I adore all of his stand-up (I’ve even seen him live before), and his book – Modern Romance: An Investigation – is a great read. What I didn’t know, however, was that the show would be absolutely hilarious, topical, thought-provoking, and introspective all at the same time.
Master of None falls into the same vein as other new comedies that have been popping up in recent years, like Girls and Louie, in the sense that it’s funny, but it doesn’t go for the cheap laughs. It doesn’t rely on slapstick or obvious jokes; it’s not absurdist, over-the-top, or “out there”. The show finds its humor in real, everyday situations, and is one-hundred percent relatable to the viewer. Like in life, the show isn’t afraid to delve into the serious or the dramatic for a little bit. These are the best types of comedies, in my opinion; the types that don’t try too hard to find the jokes, but let the jokes arise naturally and honestly, and the types that aren’t afraid to get serious when the plot calls for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of shows like Modern Family and The Goldbergs, but Master of None is in a league of its own.
The show’s plot is a charming and refreshing take on a familiar premise. Aziz Ansari plays a character called Dev, who is basically a fictional version of himself. He’s a thirty-something-year-old struggling actor living in New York City who has to deal with the trials and tribulations of life – romantic, ludicrous, and mundane. He’s just landed his first starring role in a movie called The Sickening – a sci-fi, zombie-esque, outbreak epic – which serves as the overall, background arc for the ten-episode season, but this isn’t the main plot of the show. The majority of the show chronicles Dev’s everyday pursuits with his friends, parents (played hilariously by Aziz Ansari’s real-life parents!), co-workers, and romantic interests. In particular, his on and off again relationship with a woman named Rachel, played by Noël Wells of Saturday Night Live fame.
What sets this show apart from others about thirty-something-year-olds living in New York City – like Seinfeld, Friends, and How I Met Your Mother – is that it’s a show that can find humor in boring, mundane subjects such as bathroom candles and texting, while also being a social critique on real issues such as how Indians (really, minorities in general) are represented in the media, just how different men and women find the (non-)safety of the city that never sleeps, and stories about how immigrants families made it to America and built themselves up from nothing. It’s a comedy that finds the perfect balance between being funny, moving, and dramatic. It really is an amazing work of art, and a relevant snapshot of what it means to be young and single living in and trying to make it in New York City.
Aziz Ansari has stated in interviews relating to the show just how personal this project was to him, from the conception through the writing, directing, and acting. It comes across on the screen. In fact, I think that anybody who knows the comedian’s stand-up will find that many of the plots running throughout this first season are topical issues that he’s talked about on stage during his routines. “Personal” is the perfect word to describe the show as well because oftentimes – despite the fact that there are tightly constructed plots here – it feels that we, as the viewers, are voyeurs watching the intimate moments in Dev’s life.
This never feels more true than when we’re watching the relationship between him and Rachel progress from its awkward beginning to where it eventually ends up at the end of the season. It’s brutally honest, painfully awkward, adorably cute, and so real. I bought the two characters as a couple, and found myself rooting for them over the course of the entire show. I can’t heap enough praise on Aziz Ansari or Noël Wells for bringing these two imperfect characters so perfectly to life. In fact, as great as Aziz Ansari is, I’ll go as far to say that Noël Wells is the secret weapon of this entire series. The character is quirky, in a girl-next-door type of way, and if the part had been miscast, it would have derailed the success of this show. Luckily, Wells brings her A-Game as the “average girl”, who I developed a crush on over the course of the ten episodes. She demonstrated a stunning ability to go toe-to-toe with Aziz, and I’d be curious to see how much of their dialogue was written vs. improvised because it seemed so authentic.
The entirety of Master of None feels authentic in general, which is its greatest strength. The dialogue feels realistic, and – as I mentioned above – the plots are relatable. I could go on, and on, and on about how much I love this show, but in the end, all I can really do is suggest that you go watch it yourself. I don’t have a single word of criticism for it. In my mind, it’s easily the best of Netflix’s original series, the best comedy still producing episodes across any platform, and is one of my favorite shows.
Everyone should watch it. I can’t wait to re-watch it, and I’m praying that Netflix announces a second season renewal A.S.A.P.
What did you think of season one of Master of None? Where would you rank it against Netflix’s other original series? Are you planning on watching season two this week? Let me know in the comments below! And if you are planning on binging season two, check back this weekend for my review of it!