SERIES REVIEW: MASTER OF NONE


★★★★

I'll be the first to admit that I was very late when it came to binge watching Master of None. Usually, I'm pretty speedy when it comes to checking out Netflix's originals. Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Jessica Jones have all been shows which I've cleaned my calendar for, watching consecutively for a day until I reached the end of each. Master of None however, was not a show which initially sparked much interest from me. Seeing comedian Aziz Ansari on the cover, I assumed the show would be a regular US comedy with not much substance to it other than a few one liners. However, this week, while trawling through Netflix for something light with short episodes, I decided I'd give the show a chance. It has had overwhelmingly positive reviews, even winning best comedy series at the 2016 Critics Choice Awards earlier this week. What I was not expecting, was the funny, intelligent and touching show which ensued.


Telling the story of struggling actor, Dev (Aziz Ansari), a thirty-something living in the city, the biggest compliment I can give Master of None is the realness it achieves. I mean, heartbreakingly, painfully, hit-the-nail-on-the-head, real. Many social issues are tackled throughout the shows ten episodes, with each episode seeming to have a loose focus on a different issues. However, these issues are not thrust in the face of viewers in some self-righteous fashion, nor are they tiptoed around and halfheartedly hinted at. It is more that each issue comes with its own story. They are addressed as comical and relatively normal ups and downs in the day to day life of Dev. Whether it is showcasing the way we as a society treat the elderly through the introduction of a grandmother with a hidden talent, or an episode focusing around the everyday sexism the shows female characters face in a day, Master of None draws on some truths that many series fail to address. It is through its comical and subtle approach to these day to day issues that the show really makes its point.

In most sitcoms or modern series, character profiles are an essential addition to plot. In Master of None, this doesn't necessarily feel like the case. With each episode featuring around its own unique theme, an array of characters float in and out to aid the exploration of the issue. Characters in Master of None are not fleshed out with back stories. To some extent, not even Dev (Ansari) offers us details of his past. This isn't to say that there are no substantial characters in the show. Rachel (Noel Wills), the funny yet fiery girlfriend of Dev, makes an interesting addition to the plot. The relationship of the two is a portrayal of a new couple which I am not used to from American series, and it is adorably refreshing to watch the two bounce off of each other. The last two episodes are particularly brilliant in terms of this couples relationship, with the final chapter of their story closing in the last episode in a completely perfect way.

This lack of fleshed out characters in the show means it is easy for Master of None to offer a complete focus on the present lives of its characters, showing us exactly what life is like for thirty somethings in New York in 2015/16. For this reason, it parallels the life of many confused millennials starting to push out of the stage in their life for experimentation, and into the stage of settling down and real adult life. For viewers at this puzzling time of their life, the show is like a friendly and comical guide. Ansari understands your struggle completely. Master of None positions itself right in the middle of real life in 2016 (cue a lot of pop culture references), only upping those realism levels a little more.

For all those who've not yet seen Master of None, it is definitely a show I'd recommend. It feels like these type of shows, which comment on life in a stripped back and candid fashion, could be a promising future for comedy. The show is tongue and cheek about all the right things, pulling up every stereotype which we have deeply rooted into both Hollywood and society, and asking us to rethink them.

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