"I had to suffer through a minor racial trauma to get here."
Comedian Aziz Ansari has teamed up with his former Parks and Recreation writer/producer Alan Yang to create a thoughtful romantic comedy series tackling not only Modern Romance but issues of race and identity rather hilariously in the new Netflix original series, Master of None. Ansari plays Dev Shah, a loosely based autobiographical version of himself, who's a 30-something New York actor managing single life in the modern age.
Each of the first season's ten episodes essentially acts as its own fully-formed short film with a distinct theme or topic and starring different repertory players without a fully set cast. Ansari addresses familiar themes of diversity, gender, and parenthood, particularly through the lens of immigrants, with gentle humour and amusing millennial twists. Ansari and Yang clearly understand contemporary ideals, social conventions, today's seamlessly casual use of social media, and the ubiquity of technology.
Another treat is the amusing and diverse cast of friends present including Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu, Lena Waithe, and very charming yet earnest Noël Wells as Dev's love interest, Rachel, as they all walk the streets of New York living life and getting by.
Filmed and presented in 2.35 widescreen scope, Master of None is splendidly cinematic with a joyous, upbeat visual framing of city life directed by veteran filmmakers like James Ponsoldt, Lynn Shelton, Wareheim, and Ansari himself. All this adds to the series' perceived realism and relatable quality as it sheds any traditional sitcom or conventional television qualities. Of note, the eclectic yet familiar song choices are also rather warm and enticing.
Many of the show's highlights come from its loose but naturalistic structure and framework of characters focused on ideas and themes instead of necessarily plot or contrived situations to exploit its humour. Peppered throughout is Ansari's well-known thoughts on late developing adulthood and the enjoyment of a leisurely lifestyle.
Ansari is able to effectively dial back his energetic comedic persona and slow things down while getting across his trademark humour for a thoughtfully realized contemporary romantic comedy. Master of None succeeds in both adhering to and redefining Ansari's brand of topical comedy blending influences from Woody Allen to Louis CK rather sublimely.
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