Who would have thought that a teen comedy-drama series would bring me out of my writing hiatus to share my thoughts on the number one trending show on Netflix right now?
When Never Have I Ever, popped up into my ‘New Releases’ feed a couple of days ago I had no idea what I was in store for when I hit play. It seemed like an interesting enough show to watch while I drew (I like background noise when I draw) but soon found out that my eyes were glued to the screen, as I watched the life of Devi, a 15-year-old Indian girl unfold.
The show follows Devi, as she navigates the trials of being a teen and handles the societal and family expectations that come with being part of an Indian family and community, all while dealing with a traumatic family event. I don’t want to give too much away about the show so this review is SPOILER FREE. The show is endearing and is eloquent in its powerful yet subtle message – this is like any coming of age piece but it is modern and so sophisticated in steering through the unique circumstances of its characters.
The format of the show is also fresh and entertaining and I believe this is what made the show so special to me. The show is narrated by American tennis player John McEnroe. I thought this was a very interesting choice, given that this is a coming of age drama about a teen girl, who is Indian. It is strange, to hear a 61-year-old tennis legend narrating Devi’s story but the show explains why this is early on – by breaking the fourth wall and giving the audience a reason as to why he is telling her story.
This adds a pleasant dimension to the show. Through the narration the audience is included as a key part of the show itself, we are not merely watching but we are included through McEnroes, commentary and it creates a sense of warmth and comfort that draws us in. In episode 6, the narration is yet again showcased as an important element in the series. The show does a point of view switch, from Devi’s perspective to that of her rival Ben’s and with the switch comes a change in narrator, the awesome Andy Samberg – all I could hear was detective Jake Peralta of Brooklyn 99.
The cast was spot on as well. I was surprised to see Sendhil Ramamurthy, play Devi’s father Mohan – The last time I saw Sendhil was in Heroes back in my teen years. We also had the beautiful Poorna Jagannathan as Devi’s strict mom, Nalini and Richa Moorjani as Devi’s cousin Kamala, from India who is staying with the family. I loved Kamala’s character, her personality and balance between fulfilling her own dreams as well as genuinely trying to make her family proud was a lovely facet to the story.
The star of the show was Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who is a Canadian actor, of Tamil descent. She portrayed the struggles of a teen convincingly and her chemistry with Jagannathan, showed a true mother-daughter relationship that I could connect with.
What I loved about Never Have I Ever most was that it did not try hard at all. I find that in a lot of today’s series and films, POC characters are thrown into narratives that are not their own. This is quite messy and it is difficult to relate to them because of the implausible scenarios they are injected into. While Never Have I Ever includes all the ingredients of a classic teen drama it also creates something new that everyone can enjoy. I didn’t feel uncomfortable watching it, the problems the characters faced, and how they handled it weren’t forced or inserted into the narrative just to ‘tick a box’ This makes me think that the creators of the show should be very proud.
Speaking of creators, I had no clue going into this that Mindy Kailing was involved until a friend pointed this out and I then did my research. Never Have I Ever was created by Mindy Kaling and writer Lang Fisher. According to a Netflix interview, Kailing said that she was approached by the online streaming service to do a show about her childhood. After saying yes, she recruited Fisher who was perfectly suited to tell the story from a young woman’s perspective. The show is semi-autobiographical as it is inspired by Kailing’s own life. With this she took the opportunity to portray nerds in a different light to the common socially awkward and studious, stereotypical cast type these characters are usually resigned to.
And Kailing did just that. Finally, a show that depicted ‘nerds’ as more than one boring thing. I was truly happy for this as a nerd myself I have always known that there is more to us, and finally that story is being told.
To wrap this one up, Never Have I Ever is a show I wish I had growing up as a teen. It makes me so proud to see someone that looks like me in a lead role, in a teen comedy-drama that is actually good to watch. Growing up it never really bothered me that there weren’t many brown leads or characters that I could look up to and I just went off, of a character’s personality traits that I could see in myself. But I know for some it is important that we have representation and I am glad that this show will be it for some girls out there.
I loved the authenticity, warmth, and edginess of Never Have I Ever and the shows final episode has definitely set up for a potential season 2. As the show was only released a couple of days ago, on the 27th April 2020 it will be at least a month before Netflix announces if we will get another season. But with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m betting that we haven’t seen the last of it.
What are your thoughts on the show? Let me know in the comment section below.