Colin Patrick Smith / Courtesy photo
K.C. Bailey / Netflix
Well shit, Aziz Ansari has done proved me wrong.
Heretical as it may be to the Internet frenzy surrounding the show, I was never much of a “Parks and Rec” fan — the occasional three-minute YouTube highlight reel was all I could really stomach — and Ansari’s character Tom Haverford was a large part of this. I can appreciate shtick as much as the next guy, but it gets hard to willingly tune in knowing you’re going to be irritated by a character. I guess not everyone shares this same sentiment though, or else Fran Drescher would’ve never had a career.
Given how grating I’d found him in “Parks” and in the bits of stand-up specials I’d caught in the past, I didn’t have especially high hopes for Ansari’s new Netflix series “Master of None.” But I’m really glad I gave it a watch — it’s some of the best small-screen comedy I’ve seen this year.
In “Master,” Ansari plays Dev, a 30-something actor in New York City maneuvering through jobs, relationships and modern society’s always-connected nature. It’s not necessarily a groundbreaking premise for a comedy show, but each episode’s topic is approached in a meaningful and insightful way. Ansari still hams it up as Dev — and stilled insists on using the word “Boo” to refer to his girlfriend — but it’s coming from one facet of a more complex character, rather than the always-on clown guise he’s played in previous shows.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between “Master” and “Louie” — comic Louis C.K.’s own semi-autobiographical series about his life in New York — but the two are very much distinct in their own rights. The two take on the same single-camera style, but “Louie” has more of a focus on the surreal, often with long, dreamlike sequences where few words are uttered and the comic becomes entwined with the absurdity of the world around him.
“Master” doesn’t dip into these same creative waters, instead honing in on more reality-based (yet just as odd in their own right) nuances of modern urban life. Whether it’s montages of frantic Internet research on the best taco place in town (because what kind of asshole would settle for the second-best taco), to a complex string of text messages meant to ensure the date you’re taking to the concert on Saturday is indeed the hottest of all possible dates — it hits on technological narcissism and dating culture while remaining very, very funny.
Also worth noting are the great performances of the support cast, primarily Noël Wells as Rachel, Dev’s love interest in many episodes. Ansari and Wells build a sympathetic relationship that, while laden with quippy banter, manages to avoid falling into the cutesy, twee territory some other shows get trapped in.
I hope Ansari and “Master” keep up this kick; it’s made for some damn fine watching so far.
Read more Nixon: coloradodaily.com/columnists.