I watched the entire first season of Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’ in one sitting. Was this because it amounted to an overall five hours? Was this because I am a terrible person with no self-control? The answer to both of these questions is yes, the latter more so. The main reason why ‘Master of None’ is such an enjoyable, easy show to binge-watch, however, is its realism; the characters, conversations and situations are all relatable, believable and, above all, entertaining.
Created by Ansari and Alan Yang, ‘Master of None’ focuses on actor Dev Shah (Aziz Ansari) navigating his way through life in New York. The season hits the ground running with humour in its first scene when Dev is torn between using Uber X or Uber Black to travel to buy morning-after pills after a split condom incident, then offering to buy said pills for his date; and they say romance is dead. Well, he must have done something right as this one-night-stand evolves into the main romantic plotline of the series between Dev and his eventual girlfriend Rachel (Noël Wells). The relationship is nothing special, it’s a simple, real-life relationship; no grand romantic gestures or huge bust-ups that are resolved at the airport, just two people enjoying each other’s company, eating pasta and making bets with wagers of oral sex, as you do.
The relationship does not monopolise the season however. Ansari uses other aspects of the show to incorporate real issues and send a clear message. He expresses his feeling towards the issue of representation of race in the entertainment industry through the medium of Dev’s career. At one point in the show, Dev is asked, and refuses, to put on an Indian accent in an audition for a cab driver, an issue which Ansari himself actually faced when auditioning for the role of a call-centre worker in Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’. The episode in which this happens begins with a montage of the representation of Indian characters that Ansari grew up watching; it depicts Peter Sellers and Fisher Stevens, two white men in brownface putting on Indian accents, in ‘The Party’ and ‘Short Circuit’ respectively. The episode makes the viewer uncomfortable about the issue, and rightfully so, since Ansari portrays this real issue in such a way that it cannot be ignored.
The best episode of the season has to be episode 7 ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, which offers an accessible but unflinching look into the issue of gender inequality. It begins with the juxtaposition of a woman being followed home after being harassed at a bar to an ominous soundtrack, and Dev and pal Eric (Arnold Baumheiser) having a pleasant walk home to the tune of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. The episode brings to light the ever-present problem of your typical ‘but I’m a nice guy’ type of man; the man who believes that he’s a paragon of virtue and that all women owe him something, but as soon as a woman won’t sleep with him, she’s suddenly a ‘massive bitch’, showing that he is, in fact, a complete tool. He probably follows ‘Meninist’ on Twitter as well.
Overall, ‘Master of None’ is a refreshing take on the comedy genre; it’s entertaining and informative, and it easily maintains a realistic atmosphere.