Nov 17, 2015 Film & TV
It hardly sounds groundbreaking. In fact it sounds like so much Gen Y television comedy, from How I Met Your Mother to Happy Endings to Girls. But Master of None, the new Netflix show from stand-up comic, actor and writer Aziz Ansari, is much more than just a smart comedy about love and friendship in the big city.
Master of None official trailer.
Co-written by Ansari and fellow Parks and Recreation alumnus Alan Yang, Master of None stars Ansari in the semi-autobiographical role of Dev, an aspiring New York actor. Episode 2, “Indians on TV”, examines the indignities suffered by actors like Dev as they struggle to escape from Hollywood’s minority-role ghetto.
It starts with a 7-year-old Dev sitting in front of the TV as a montage of South Asian stereotypes flicks by. As an adult, he gets auditions for taxi drivers and IT guys but never, he points out, for the kind of jobs Bradley Cooper does in his movies.
The episode hinges on the industry notion that a television cast can’t have two Indian characters and includes numerous experiences from Ansari’s own life, like the time he lost out on a role in a Transformers movie because he wouldn’t “do the accent”.
It’s just a half-hour comedy, but “Indians on TV” feels like a watershed moment.
It’s just a half-hour comedy, but “Indians on TV” feels like a watershed moment. I challenge anyone to watch it and not cringe the next time they hear The Simpsons‘ Apu (voiced, it’s worth mentioning, by a white actor) or see another lonely minority character on an otherwise all-white show.
Even better is “Parents”, in which Dev and his Chinese-American friend Brian attempt to build bridges with their immigrant parents. Flashbacks of their fathers’ impoverished upbringings, followed by years of selfless immigrant sacrifice, conclude with an emotional gut punch: their adult sons blowing off a simple request because they’re late for a movie and don’t want to miss the trailers.
“Parents” is both the show’s most moving episode and one of its funniest – and that’s almost entirely thanks to guest stars, and Ansari’s real-life parents, Fatima and Shoukath Ansari. Playing Dev’s father, Shoukath Ansari especially is a natural, giving a scene-stealing performance in a comedy packed with great roles (and some big-name surprise cameos).
Race and diversity are at the forefront of Master of None, but it isn’t a show about race. Most of the time it plays out as a straight but thoroughly modern romance, tracing Dev’s dating misadventures and budding relationship with the charming Rachel (Noël Wells). As a romantic comedy for the Internet generation, Master of None is really good. When it goes deeper, it’s great.