Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show ‘Master of None’ scores rave reviews

6 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’ is funny, thoughtful and heartbreaking.

Ansari, who starred on “Parks and Recreation,” co-created and stars in the Netflix comedy, which centers on New York actor Dev, who struggles in work and with dating. Which isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with the first episode of Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix comedy, Master of None, all 10 episodes of which debut on the streaming service Friday. Emotions are the main characters in the playful yet sensitive animated feature from Pixar about the inner life of a preteen girl unable to express her unhappiness. It’s fluid and funny, a breezy half-hour that charmingly introduces Ansari’s character — a 30-something actor and foodie named Dev, who’s, uh, a lot like the 30-something foodie actor who plays him — and his milieu, the same sort of slightly heightened, yuccie-fied New York City we’ve seen everywhere from Girls to How I Met Your Mother to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

New York Times writer James Poniewozik called the show “the year’s best comedy straight out of the gate,” while Hank Stuever of The Washington Post found the show to be “refreshingly optimistic… fun” and Los Angeles Times writer Robert Lloyd called it “smart, sweet, and funny in ways both familiar and fresh.” For Ansari, who was born in America to Indian parents, heading up a sitcom is another sign of more diversity coming to TV. Everyone has a proper job rather than being an architect or magazine editor, those professions that appear far more in network shows than they do in real life. Sure the main character, Dev (Ansari) is an actor – and we need another story about them like David Cameron needs a bacon sandwich – but this show is so real that Dev’s parents are played by Ansari’s actual parents. They include the hulking, immature Arnold (Eric Wareheim, the director of several episodes as well), who’s white; no-nonsense Denice (Lena Waithe), who’s black; and straight-laced Brian (Kelvin Yu), who’s Taiwanese.

Programs like ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Cristela,” “Black-ish,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” the CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” and Fox’s “Empire” and “Red Band Society” all debuted then. His role here is much closer to the persona he presents in his standup sets (the last several produced for Netflix) or his book Modern Romance: An Investigation, which was published this summer. Also new: “The End of the Tour,” starring Jason Segel as author David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as a Rolling Stone reporter (R), and the comedy reboot “Vacation,” with Ed Helms and Christina Applegate on another disastrous family road trip (R). Well, that and obsessing about both his present and future — especially after he bumps into an ex, who married the lawyer she met a month after breaking up with Dev and already has her first kid. Comedian and actor Aziz Ansari draws on his own life for inspiration in his Netflix original comedy “Master of None: Season 1,” playing a 30-year-old actor with immigrant parents dealing with relationships, a struggling career and a lack of direction in the bustle of New York City; 10 episodes.

Actress Viola Davis recently became the first African-American actress to win a Best Actress Emmy Award for her work on “Murder.” The ABC shows created or produced by Shonda Rhimes, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “Murder,” consistently feature diverse casts in terms of race and LGBT characters. Each episode is themed around a topic like parents, old people or Indians on TV and in each one, Dev finds himself in a strange or extreme scenario that makes him examine the way he thinks about these issues. Nonfiction: “Last Days in Vietnam” (2014) earned an Oscar nomination and “Do I Sound Gay?” (2014) features Tim Gunn, George Takei and Seattle’s Dan Savage among its expert witnesses. On these adventures he has a revolving cast of friends and co-conspiritors, none of whom are simple character tropes and none of the actors are movie-star beautiful (except when Claire Danes stops by for a guest role).

In this respect the show is very reminiscent of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, which put Larry David in a series of compromising positions and then followed the insufferable ways he and everyone around him end up looking like asses. Streaming TV: “The 100: Season 2,” the CW show about attractive young adults in an unforgiving world, and the Bravo series “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce: Season 1,” with Lisa Edelstein and Janeane Garofalo.

For teens and anime fans comes “Seven Deadly Sins: Season 1,” an animated fantasy from Japan (TV-14), and for younger kids there’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” (2004) and the Netflix original revival “Care Bears & Cousins: Season 1.” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (2009) is another dive into the dark fantasies and phantasmagorical dream worlds of Terry Gilliam. Even in an episode where Dev sleeps with a woman (Danes) because her husband cuts him in line at an ice cream shop, it has a very humane and heartfelt ending considering the scenario. In the Seinfeldian wake of David and all his imitators, watching a modern comedy (think Louie, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Veep or Girls) has become an exercise in waiting for something awful to happen, like a zombie leaping out from behind a car on The Walking Dead.

Just as a sitcom character gets close to a girlfriend’s grandmother, as Dev does in one episode, you’re bracing yourself for her to die, be a racist or have some sort of bizarre sexual perversion. Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992) present Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight, while Antonio Banderas is a different kind of masked hero in “The Mask of Zorro” (1998).

The episode don’t set out to examine how awful and conceited people are but instead explore the misunderstandings that happen on the way to human connection. Fifteen James Bond films starring Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby, spanning “From Russia with Love” (1963) to “License to Kill” (1989), arrive as “Spectre” hits theaters. “The Leisure Class,” the feature film produced on HBO’s “Project Greenlight: Season Four,” is now available to view along with the season finale. Another sees him considering an affair with a gorgeous food critic played by Claire Danes, who happens to be married to a callow executive played by Noah Emmerich. And its refusal to stay tied down mirrors Dev himself, who’s so inundated by options — of things to do, things to be, things to eat — that he’s petrified of making any choice at all, lest it be the wrong one. (Think Sylvia Plath’s fig tree metaphor, which Dev himself mulls over in the season’s final and most emotionally devastating episode.) Still, the show does have one major through-line: Dev’s relationship with a winsome music publicist named Rachel (Nöel Wells, who was axed from SNL after a single season, proves here that she was destined for greater things). Like Seinfeld and its famous “no hugging, no lessons” policy, the episodes don’t have a didactic moral, but the characters are all searching for something meaningful in this sometimes crummy life.

There is plenty of absurd humor like Dev’s Skype audition for a role, which he has to do in a coffee shop because the Wi-Fi in his house sucks, or his fitness-minded friend who continues to do burpees while waiting for Dev to finish a conversation with someone else. As time goes on, however, they find themselves wondering whether they’re together because they’re truly meant to be — whatever that means — or because they both just happen to be at the age when people like them start to settle down. It’s as resonant as it is laugh-out-loud funny — the sort of show that sticks with you, the sort of show that turns you into an evangelist on its behalf. (But maybe not the sort you watch with your significant other, unless you’re prepared for some uncomfortable silences.) Ansari was hilarious as Parks and Recreation’s Tom Haverford, a goofy, appearance-obsessed wannabe entrepreneur. We’re not fucking the girls and all that stuff.” It is the most insightful, funny and honest episode of television tackling race and popular culture since Blackish pondered “the N-word” earlier this season.

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