Master of None: Season 1 created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (3 Arts Entertainment, Netflix, Universal Television)
Starring Aziz Ansari, Noël Wells, Lena Waithe, Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu, and Todd Barry.
Upon hearing the question, “What is it about?” how often are you able to give a concise summary of a show? The plot, more often than not, drives such a discussion. The chemistry teacher turns to cooking meth. A handful of families wage war against each other to take hold of the iron throne.
Comedy, though, tends to abstain from plot-heavy storytelling. Some shows tell stories in long narrative arcs, but many also use a handful of situations to generate comedy. These sitcoms remove character complexity, focusing instead on the broad strokes that land in the cheap seats.
Whether drama or comedy, most television storylines find a plot or a riff and run with it. In this way, a series doesn’t really represent a novelistic view on story.
In the television milieu, I’d venture, Mad Men is the only show I’ve seen that connects deeply with a novelistic structure.
Until Master of None appeared.
Don’t Expect Parks & Recreation 2.0
With the comedic credibility of Aziz Ansari, Master of None held high acclaim as it released, but I’ve heard from multiple sources that the show fell flat in their estimation. I would venture, however, that such an assessment is an incorrect reading of the show.
For those looking for Parks and Recreation 2.0, you will be sadly disappointed. Instead, Ansari presents a complex and imminently realistic portrayal of millennial big city experiences.
Rather than approaching the show in a linear structure, Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang approach the story thematically, with each episode addressing a different topic. The episodes explore topics such as the immigrant experience, racism on television, and the perils of dating.
At a high level, one overarching narrative appears. The main character, Dev (Aziz Ansari) explores a relationship with Rachel (Noël Wells). As an aspiring actor who has successfully earned an income through commercials, Dev also gets work on a quasi-Blaxploitation film. Throughout these experiences, Dev riffs on life with his friend group, Arnold (Eric Wareheim), Brian (Kelvin Yu), and Denise (Lena Waithe).
But the narrative takes a back seat to the literary structure of Master of None. More than a story, Master of None explores ideas and principles behind modern life. It’s well worth your time!
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5