When we first meet Dev Shah (Aziz Ansari) in “Masters of None,” he’s the quintessential self-entitled millennial. A 30-year-old bachelor living in the Big Apple, he has the world at his fingertips: Uber, Yelp, Google, Tindr, and dozens of other modern conveniences.
But at much as he’s the master at finding the best-reviewed taco trucks, Dev’s also the victim of other first world problems plaguing the millennial generation: awkward one-night stands, spotty Wi-Fi in his apartment, and the paralyzing possibility that there’s always something better out there.
Consider this: Rather than go to the closest taco truck, every decision (no matter how inconsequential) is throughly researched. Dev consults reviews from Yelp and Google to find the very best-reviewed tacos he could possibly consume; however, by the time he finishes his research and arrives at his destination, the best-reviewed taco truck in New York City has sold out of tacos.
This two-minute montage showcases creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s (“Parks and Recreation”) writing prowess. The addictive 10-episode Netflix original hilariously illustrates the modern hangups of today’s 20 and 30-something year olds as if they were happening to our best friends, rather than characters in a TV show.
“I asked this girl out three weeks ago; she said nothing,” Dev says. “They give you silence. Why?”
His friend Denise (Lena Waithe) responds, “Dude, if she hasn’t texted you in two days, it means she doesn’t want to go. This is a very clear and unambiguous situation.”
Of course, Ansari knows why its easier to ghost someone rather than respond. “We all have the same nightmare,” Ansari said once during a stand-up special at Madison Square Garden. “The nightmare where you do commit to the thing with Phil…. and then you get that phone call: ‘Dude, where are you? Biggie and Tupac faked their deaths! They’re doing a show right now! I have an extra ticket!'”
By that same reasoning, a having a kid is the ultimate nightmare: the commitment which always prevents you from going to that Biggie and Tupac concert, from going to that bar or club and from taking home that random stranger to have an awkward one-night stand with.
“Luckily we got one of those Plan B things so two people who barely know each other will not be raising a human child together,” Dev tells his friends Arnold (Eric Wareheim) and Denise.
Many of the ideas in “Master of None” have already been explored in Ansari’s stand-up, which topics range from how people communicate to how creepy guys approach women.
These points are expanded into sketches featured in “Master of None.” In “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Ansari and Yang illustrate gender inequality by juxtaposing Dev and Arnold’s trip home from the bar with that of one one Dev’s female co-workers. He steps in dog poop; she has to call the cops because a creepy guy follows her home from the bar.
In “Parents,” Ansari and Yang compare how much easier life is for first-generation Americans like Dev and his Taiwanese American friend Brian (Kelvin Yu). Dev’s dad (Shoukath Ansari) wasn’t allowed to play games; Dev grew up with computer games and iPads. The episode stars Ansari’s own parents, Shoukath and Fatima.
“Master of None” packages these powerful social critiques in a neatly wrapped comedic burrito. The salsa blends with the beef and the cheese touches the lettuce, but even ideas that aren’t kosher are easily digestible 30-minute episodes.
In “Indians on TV,” Dev fiercely campaigns for more well-rounded Indian American representation in media. “There can’t be two — because of course, two Indian people would make it an Indian show,” a TV executive says when Dev questions why the studio can’t cast both him and an Indian American actor in a “Friends”-style sitcom.
“Master of None” smartly ribs on covert racism in American culture, pointing out that while blackface is wrong, white actors are still cast to play Indians.
“That’s Fisher Stevens,” Dev points out in a still of “Short City 2.” “They used brownface make-up.”
“Master of None” isn’t like any other show out there, delving into the psyche of the modern 20 to 30-something. As much as its a satire about indecision, this, of course, is one commitment we can easily make.
“Master of None” was created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. The 10-episode first season is available for streaming on Netflix.