Last Friday, Netflix released the first season of Aziz Ansari’s much-anticipated new series, Master of None. The series has been met with wide critical acclaim. The New York Times called it “the year’s best comedy.” The season consists of 10 episodes, with each revolving around a certain subject facing millennials today. In one episode, Aziz’s Dev—a struggling actor—faces a common dilemma. Where to go for lunch. He spends hours researching the most delicious, trendy, location-convenient taco shop on his laptop. When he finally chooses a place, what do you know—they’re out of tacos.
Ansari pays close attention to every aspect of Master of None—from diversity to character development to the cinematography. The first and third episodes were directed by James Ponsoldt, who comes straight from the critical acclaims of The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour. His direction sets the tone for the eight following episodes. The show’s a far cry from the inauthentic feel of a sitcom, and is shot more like a film.
Ansari cast his real parents, and his dad might be the real star of the show. He constantly struggles with his iPad, torturing Dev with trivial requests to fix it. In one scene, Dev’s father brags to Dev about the photos he took on a recent trip, but his wife quips, “No, you just took one long video.” He looks at his wife and says, “Hey, that’s the whole trip, man. You see everything!”
Ansari’s Dev and Kelvin Yu’s Brian spend “Parents” exploring the generational divide between immigrant parents and their millennial children. In the story, both Dev and his Taiwanese friend Brian ignore their fathers, choosing instead to see the new X-Men film. Dev’s relative remarks later in the episode that had Dev’s parents chosen to stay in India, Dev might be working at the zipper factory where his father previously worked. In response, Brian tells the relative, “Instead, Dev lives in America, where his biggest problem is that the wifi in his apartment is messed up.”
Ansari and Yu also deal with the lack of diversity on television in an episode aptly titled, “Indians on TV.” In the episode, Dev auditions for the lead in a sitcom, but doesn’t get the role. When he inquires to a network executive about the rejection, he claims that they already hired an Indian for a lead role, and that there “can’t be two.” The episode then evolves into a satirical take on Hollywood’s discrimination against Indian people and its use of brownface so that white actors can play Indians. In one scene, Dev tells his friend, “If Paula Deen had said, ‘I don’t want to serve Indian people,’ nobody would care—they’d just go back to eating the biscuits.”
But the jokes don’t land every time. Some of his lines are also taken directly from his stand-up special, Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden. In an episode titled “Hot Ticket,” Dev complains about a girl not texting him back after he tried to make plans, a story almost word-for-word from his special. In another episode, a conversation centers on creepy dudes. Ansari tells the same story of having to “wait in a pet shop for 30 minutes” both in the show and onstage. If you’ve already seen the special, you might want to fast-forward through this scene.
Perhaps Master of None has been so critically acclaimed because of Ansari’s ability to veer away from formulaic storytelling. In almost every show on television, the main characters of the show are visible in every single episode. Rather than contrive stories for these characters, Ansari just uses them when they naturally enter the storyline. In “Mornings,” besides a brief appearance from Dev’s parents, the only two characters that appear in the episode are Dev and his girlfriend Rachel. It would have taken away from the focus of the episode to feature another character, as the story revolves around their growing relationship. Also—what group of friends eats out every day together? Ansari doesn’t underestimate the attention span or intelligence of its viewers—and it’s refreshing.
On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week, Colbert asked Ansari about the title, Master of None. Ansari responds, “[The show] is about this guy who really feels like he’s a developed adult … but he’s still learning a lot about life and what not, so he’s kind of a “Master of None.’” With the undeniable talent on display in these 10 episodes, Ansari certainly doesn’t have that problem.
Featured Image by Netflix