Hit or Sh**: Netflix’s MASTER OF NONE
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Aziz Ansari seems to have gone full philosopher in recent years, as his observations of today’s dating world that are normally present in his standup have given way to an entire book written about his findings. Fortunately Ansari is still hilarious while laying down truth, and his explorations into the modern dating world in his new Netflix original series MASTER OF NONE come off as depressingly relevant, especially to those around the same point in their lives as he is. Created by Ansari and Alan Yang (known for his work as a producer on PARKS AND RECREATION), MASTER OF NONE could accurately be described as LOUIE meets GIRLS, capturing a desperate desire to mature while also taking a cynical look at the current state of affairs for the millennial generation.
For those that are in the target demographic, but still aren’t sure how normal women are convinced to send you their butts
The first episode, “Plan B,” immediately refers to the late-night trip to the pharmacist Ansari’s character Dev takes with Rachel, played by Noël Wells, after a broken condom merits a dual Googling of “can precum get you pregnant.” If the first question you have when starting MASTER OF NONE is whether or not it makes a habit of parodying the trappings of millennial culture, then the answer is yes. As the episode goes on, “Plan B” could also refer to Dev’s decision between settling down and having kids and living out his days as a bachelor.
The episode’s structure and plot are very solid and fundamental, presenting a simple chain of events tugged along by the character motivation. After the cold open sees Dev weighing the pros and cons of settling down and having kids, he and his friend Arnold (Eric Wareheim) go to a birthday party for the infant of one his other friends, Kyle (David Charles Ebert). From his experiences with Kyle and and his friends’ kids, Dev initially believes that settling down would be great. The rest of the episode is, in short, dedicated to convincing Dev he’s wrong. The script also makes use of fantasy-like dream sequences to illustrate Dev’s shifting opinions on parenthood as he totes around his friend’s kids, resulting in a crash course in dealing with children in public. The script is simple, easy to follow, and it works.
Much like Ansari’s fighting style, the show pulls no punches
Many of the themes of the show are the same themes that Ansari has explored previously in his standup acts, so fans of his standup will experience a sense of déjà vu as Ansari explains his thoughts and feelings to his friends Arnold and Denise (Lena Waithe). Ansari’s acting and delivery has a suspicious similarity to his character Tom Halford from PARKS AND REC, but it doesn’t get in the way of the rest of the episode.
Also notable is the chemistry between Wareheim and Ansari. Moments such as their trip to a baby store to get a present for a one-year-old give a familiar sense of gleeful absurdity that hearkens back to Wareheim’s work with Tim Heidecker. For example, Arnold goes to the store in the first place because there will be a bounce house at the party, and he and Dev spend an almost uncomfortable (in a good way) amount of time amusing themselves with baby toys.
The key to success lays in figuring out how much Wareheim is just enough Wareheim
MASTER OF NONE looks promising. Its pilot episode delivers jokes and pointed commentary at a nonstop pace, while also delving into a shade of surrealism. It often hits close to home in an excellent way as it presents the whole process of becoming a real adult as ridiculous. The pilot also illustrates that no one is really sure what they’re doing until they’re doing it, and even then they’re not entirely confident in their path. Ansari and Yang make a good product, and I look forward to finishing the series on Netflix.
MASTER OF NONE is available to watch in its entirety on Netflix