‘Master of None’: The buddy comedy I never expected
Why ‘New York, I Love You’ and ‘Thanksgiving’ are so important to television
I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.” Around Season 2, my TV was on the fritz. The sound wouldn’t play, and I grew melancholy. The TV set and paintings were a few things my grandfather left for me before he passed away. I remember when he bought it and thought the sound on this fairly expensive TV shouldn’t have failed this quickly. I messed with the remote. I looked at the wires. I stared at the screen, continuing to read subtitles. Then it hit me — I’d never turned on the subtitles, so why were they on now?
Gasp. Just like that, I understood what was happening on Season 2’s “New York, I Love You” episode.” One of the main characters was hearing impaired, and I was now watching this episode through her “ears.” I leaned back on the couch and stared at the screen, fascinated, observing this interracial couple arguing in a retail store about their sex lives.
With frowning faces and arms anxiously moving around, I realized this was the very first time I’d ever seen a hearing impaired person on a television show be in a scene where the whole storyline did not revolve around a lack of hearing. (Honorable mention should go to the episode of “A Different World” with the hearing impaired rapper CJ Jones. I still enjoy that episode.) This was also one of a handful of times where I’d seen a movie or television show where the interracial couple’s script didn’t focus on them being interracial. She was focused on something totally different, and it was a whole lot more self-gratifying.
During Season 1, I thought “Master of None” was an OK show that I was watching 85% because Lena Waithe was in it. I like almost all of her projects (“The Chi,” “Twenties” and “Boomerang” at the top of the list — and smooth overlooking the dud that is “Them”).
I wasn’t in love with “Master of None” at first, but seeing an Indian male lead with an African-American female lead was something I was not going to miss out on watching. Issa Rae already showed us how it was done in romantic comedies (i.e., “The Lovebirds” with Kumail Nanjiani). But “Master of None” added two extra layers, with Waithe being a real-life and fictional LGBTQ+ character — and being a black woman with an Indian man as her childhood friend. Mainstream television just would never make these kinds of decisions.