Thursday, June 21, 2018
TV and Media

Aziz Ansari's Netflix show 'Master of None' is hilarious and resonant

The things that make Netflix's Master of None very good are the same things that make people flock to see Aziz Ansari on stage.

It's funny. It's relatable. It rings true in every moment.

So true, in fact, you won't even blink when his character, Dev, offers to treat his one-night stand partner to some emergency contraception pills and Martinelli's apple juice after an unfortunate break in their protection.

Life is awkward like that sometimes, and show creators Ansari and Alan Yang set out to make a half-hour sitcom that let viewers laugh at real life.

Mission mostly accomplished.

If you can stomach Ansari's penchant for long "did-you-get-it?" pauses and wide-eyed, flat delivery, you'll find enough gifs and quotes in this show to get your Instagram through the end of the year. Mark my words: Princess Luv, a.k.a. Lil Funyuns, is going to be a thing.

There is a target audience for this show. You'll know whether you are in the squad before you hit the first title screen on Episode 1.

The premiere episode, "Plan B," is wacky yet topical — a hilarious exploration of the pressure millenials are currently facing: Can there be a full life without having kids? But instead of having a bunch of people argue about it on the couch of Central Perk, Ansari and Yang start at a one night stand and end up with Dev choosing between a gourmet Parmesan sub and a ketchup, lettuce and peanut butter sandwich. All the right notes are hit to make their not-so-subtle point funny and engaging without being preachy. Who in creation would want a child that rubs his privates on waffle boxes in the grocery store because it feels good? Obviously not Dev.

The show also plays with heritage, too. It's chock full of minorities yet it doesn't feel like a show about minorities until the characters say it themselves. Both Dev and Brian (Kelvin Yu) are first generation Asian-Americans with parents who emigrated to the country in the 1980s before they were born. The other two members in the main crew are a black lesbian (Lena Waithe) and a giant man-boy (Eric Wareheim). They're just like your friends, dishing out bad advice and terrible suggestions. They just happen to look a little more like slices of America not oft seen on TV.

In the second episode, "Parents," both men refuse to do simple tasks for the fathers that sacrificed everything the rear them in comfort. It's typical American ungrateful kid stuff. The hilarity comes from these epic flashbacks revealing key points in each father's history: indignities suffered due to poverty in their home countries, racism encountered in the U.S., and perseverance to get them to the moment they are currently in, in which Dev and Brian refuse to fix an iPad calendar and buy a bag of rice from the store, respectively. It hammers home the feeling all parents must feel — not just the immigrant kind — of their children being a sometimes paltry payoff for all the work.

The show is not exclusively about Dev's ethnicity, but Ansari is comfortable enough in his skin to make an issue of it when the point will be a punch line. Episode 4, "Indians on TV," is exclusively about Ansari's real life as an actor and limited and often stereotypical roles he's auditioned for to make his dream come true. We forget that his Parks & Recreation character, Tom Haverford, is still sort of TV anomaly, a minority character without an accent or other ethnic indicators that othered him in the show's universe. Dev is more of that, but in a less ideal world where he is seen as bucking the system already in place.

That's pretty much the core of Master of None. Dev's no different from most guys his age. His friends are growing up and having families. His love life is a perpetual stream of promising first dates. He's working hard on his career, even if success hasn't gotten him the David Schwimmer money he dreams about. And he's doing it all knowing that the world sees him as different.

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