By Kate Joseph
If in 30 years you’re searching for the perfect snapshot of our generation in 2015, “Master of None” is it.
There’s no shortage of shows run by and starring comedians at the moment, but Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series doesn’t feel like just another effort forced atop a pile of hits like “Louie,” “Girls,” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”
Instead, “Master of None” exhibits modern technology, relationships, family, and social justice issues with genuine intellect, plus a plethora of laughs. After all, Ansari is a stand-up staple and a sitcom vet fresh off his run as Tom Haverford on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”
The show’s premise is classic. 30-year-old Dev (Ansari), an aspiring actor, is living in New York City and attempting to navigate a world that’s seemingly against him. Sometimes his struggles are serious, like missing out on roles to white actors, while other times he’s just hoping for a Tinder date who’s not in it for the free meal.
There are plenty of “millennial problems” depicted in the show (who among us hasn’t spent hours online trying to decide on the perfect lunch spot?), but they’re right alongside real issues in today’s society.
However, Ansari didn’t create this show to get his voice out there and preach to the public. As a successful stand-up comic, he’s already doing that. Rather, this show is a means to look at these real issues and handle them authentically on screen and in practice. So, it’s not Dev complaining to a gaggle of white companions about the lack of roles for people of color. It’s Dev plus two Indian men on screen all at once discussing the lack of diversity.
“My show has a really diverse cast,” Ansari told Entertainment Weekly. “That’s kind of my reality. I am Indian in real life. I kind of reflected that on the show. I didn’t expect that to be as big a thing it was, but it’s very cool.”
Ansari co-created the series along with pal Alan Yang, a writer and producer on “Parks and Rec.” Several other comedy names hopped on the project, too. Eric Wareheim, of the comedy duo Tim and Eric, directed half the show’s episodes and plays Arnold, Dev’s twice-his-size “token white friend.” Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Noël Wells plays Rachel, a hookup-turned -love-interest for Dev. Plus, the writing staff included Harris Wittels, who passed away in March, and still features Joe Mande, both “Parks and Rec” writers.
The show isn’t full of professionals, though. In fact, Dev’s parents in the series are played by Ansari’s real parents — Shoukath and Fatima Ansari. This is the couple’s first acting gig, but they’re scene-stealers in every appearance they make, particularly in the show’s second episode that features a look at life for first-generation immigrant families in America.
Other highlights of the series include the penultimate episode, which could easily stand alone as a heartbreakingly relatable short film, and the series’ last scene that’s likely to spawn a compelling second season.
At just 10 half-hour episodes, “Master of None” is worth at least one binge watch; if not for the invaluable lessons and often-hilarious plot lines, then for just how outright relatable it is.
Life is sometimes bleak and depressing, and this series reflects that, while still finding the humor in it all. This show knows how to take the bad things in life and let you know it’s okay to laugh at them sometimes, but it’s still earnest about how much it all really does suck.
Catch “Master of None,” streaming now on Netflix