This review comes a bit later than my normal window for plugging movies or shows, but I’m going to make an exception because Aziz Ansari’s 10-episode first season of Master of None (a Netflix exclusive) is one of the rare sitcom experiences that cannot be missed!
Ansari plays a fictionalized variant of himself, Dev Shah, an actor whose greatest success is an appearance in a Go-Gurt commercial. Joining him are a phenomenal and varied cast of hilarious friends and acquaintances, including a fictional version of show co-creator Alan Yang. In typical sitcom fashion, episodes revolve around Dev navigating issues like romance, parents, and work but the show differentiates itself from the average sitcom on multiple levels.
The most obvious is the show’s cinematic look. Filmed in widescreen, and lit like a movie, Master of None feels like it belongs on a theater screen. The personalities, the script, and the editing do all the heavy comedic lifting here. Needless to say, like most single-camera shows there is no laugh track.
The second most noticeable difference from other shows is the diversity on display, but this isn’t just a throwaway result of being a show created by Asian-Americans. It’s built into the show’s DNA to the point where it becomes one of Master of None‘s key twists. The show is as much about life a young adult in America as it is about viewing that perspective as a minority. What’s great is that, like Key and Peele, the show treats minority issues as human issues. Dev doesn’t feel like an Indian-American so much as he feels like just another guy trying to fit in and find his place. His struggles are universal, but the specifics are something that a non-minority audience member (like myself) can learn a thing or two from.
The last, and most important way, that Master of None stands apart from its peers, is in its sheer, unflinching honesty. Not just about the current generation of young adults trying to “find themselves,” but also of the limitations of all the things we’re told to find ourselves in. We want Dev to succeed in solving his existential crises because we want guidance in solving ours. Fortunately, the show doesn’t give us cheap, easily digestible answers, because there are none. The takeaway is that we’ll never become a Master of life and that the only journey worth taking is one where we keep asking questions and see where they take us.
Master of None‘s humor, like all good comedies, comes from being funny because it’s true. It sets itself apart by diving deeper than most sitcoms dare to go, and Ansari takes us there with a genial wit and earnestness that is refreshing. The humor is simultaneously silly and deep, childish and deeply mature. Its rarely over-the-top, or broad, rather feeling like a slightly accentuated reality, which is a sweet spot that few comedies excel in. All of it amounts to one of the best comedy series in recent history. Binge it now! You won’t regret it.