Aziz Ansari may have gained fame for his portrayal as the fun-loving, somewhat childish entrepreneur Tom Haverford on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” But throughout his career, he has demonstrated that he is far more than a recurring character with a few good one-liners.
In addition to continually performing innovative standup material, Ansari recently collaborated with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to release “Modern Romance: An Investigation,” a book that examines the changing landscape of love and dating in our technology-driven society. Yet despite this well-rounded resume, the pinnacle of Ansari’s career is his new semi-autobiographical Netflix series entitled “Master of None,” which premiered early this November.
Ansari proves to be a comedic powerhouse, as he produces, writes, directs and stars in the series. Even though “Master of None” is a comedy, it is unafraid to sacrifice potential jokes to instead share insights on life and dating, making it a satisfyingly fresh combination of poignancy and humor.
The story centers around Dev, a 30-year-old actor in New York City, struggling to navigate through everyday perils from dating to finding the perfect taco. Dev is supported by a group of wise and endearing friends and encouraged by his old-school parents (who are played by Ansari’s actual immigrant parents), yet he still grapples with his own indecision and tendency to over-analyze. In a world where the ability to shop for airline tickets, food and even romance is literally at our fingertips, Dev finds himself plagued by choices and paralyzed with the fear of missing out on other opportunities. He has a series of adventures, involving everything from bounce houses, to movie auditions, to the “honky tonk” joints of Nashville.
Each episode of “Master of None” centers around a different theme, such as old age or fidelity, but the show as a whole follows a romantic comedy story arc. Although the show focuses on a theme, it feels more like stream-of-consciousness musings instead of preachy lectures. While the first episode of the show (“Plan B”) is fine, the series truly finds its groove in the second episode (“Parents”), which reflects on the diverse range of sacrifices immigrant parents make for their children. Comedic and contemplative, “Parents” might just inspire audiences to call their parents and thank them. For me, the most stunning scene of the series is the fig tree sequence in the finale episode, based off of an excerpt from Sylvia Plath’s novel “The Bell Jar.”
It is difficult to pigeonhole “The Master of None.” It is primarily a comedy, but it also satirizes the world of show business while utilizing a diverse cast. It depicts what it’s like to be a young adult in our society without relying on the tired “spoiled Millennial/these dang kids and their texting” trope. The show undoubtedly offers laughs, but it is not the kind of show to set up cheap jokes. The show instead delivers a sense of situational realism rarely found in comedies without feeling over-the-top or convoluted. It feels no obligation to deliver a perfectly resolved ending every episode.
While finding criticism of this show is difficult, more continuity is necessary in the lives of the side characters. Hopefully these plotlines will be resolved in a second season. Which brings me to my second criticism: “Master of None” has not yet been confirmed for a second season, but hopefully audience demand will enable the show to be renewed.
Other critics are displeased at the fact that the show is exclusively on Netflix as opposed to network television, yet I feel that even though this decision makes it harder to watch, it enables Ansari to have the creative freedom the show requires.
In my opinion, there is some obvious Netflix plugging, as the TV shows mentioned in conversation can be streamed through the service. Some of this advertising may even be subliminal, as the “Twin Peaks” theme can be heard playing in the background of a dinner scene. Actors from other Netflix shows appear on the show, like Danielle Brooks and Maria Dizzia from “Orange Is the New Black,” so either there is some sort of Netflix conspiracy occurring, or I watch too much Netflix. Possibly both.
Regardless of any potential television monopolies, I would highly recommend “Master of None.” The show has received a rating of 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which would likely bring our protagonist, Dev, a great deal of satisfaction. Aziz Ansari’s show offers up plenty of laughs, along with touching moments and insight delivered by an excellent cast. If you’re searching for a comedy with the total package, look no further than “Master of None.”
Title: “Master of None”
Creator: Aziz Ansari
Release date: Nov. 6