Thursday, August 31, 2017

Now on Netflix: Master of None, Season 2 (2017)

Master of None, Season 2 (2017) - Created by Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang; Starring Aziz Ansari, Alessandro Mastronardi, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe, Bobby Cannavale, Angela Bassett.

By Kenny Howell

After a stellar first season, Master of None went to Italy and became maybe the best comedy on TV.

Creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang weren't afraid to play with tone and structure in the first season, but they amped it up in the second season, all while telling the story of Dev's new found love, an engaged Italian woman named Francesca (Alessandro Mastronardi).

In most hands, this would play out as a normal thing, the girl fights whether she should leave her dying relationship with her fiance to be with our main character, or stay with what is comfortable. And while there is that, it is turned into something magical, mostly because of the terrific performance of Mastronardi, but also there is what Ansari and Yang create with the tone of this season. The first episode is a black and white trip to Italy. We find Dev living in Modena, Italy, spending his days away in a restaurant where he meets Francesca.

That episode doesn't deal with that, it will come later, it is about Dev meeting another woman, getting her phone number, then a thief steals his phone. Along with his comic sidekick, Mario, a little boy from the restaurant, he searches all over Modena for his phone.

It is an out and out love letter to Italian cinema, perfectly capturing the simple tales of the height of Italian cinema during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Italian films come up later in the season as well, so you can tell it was very prevalent in Ansari and Yang's mind when crafting the season. When the love story between him and Francesca and Dev kicks in, it could be any Italian romantic escapade from that Golden era, and Mastronardi has that star ability.

But, of course, that is not all it is. Ansari and Yang have "throwaway" episodes that play with what kinds of stories you can tell on TV. There is an entire episode that is just Dev's first dates with several women on a dating app. There is an episode of several New Yorkers lives, almost none characters on the show, around the release of a new Nicolas Cage movie called Death Castle in which Dev barely appears. And then there is an episode of a bunch of Thanksgiving dinners over the years that Dev spent with his friend Denise (Lena Waithe) because his family didn't observe the holiday, eventually leading to her coming out as gay to her mom, played in a guest spot by Angela Bassett.

It just bolsters the strength of the show that it can tell this beautiful story of Dev and Francesca, while playing with the form in other areas of Dev's life. I haven't even mentioned the fact that Dev's career is starting to move forward as he hosts a baking competition show called Clash of the Cupcakes, which could lead to bigger things. It's a richly textured season that sets out to achieve so many things, and nails nearly all of it.

The first two seasons of Master of None are now on Netflix.

Rating: ****

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