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Master of None: a Netflix original pilot review

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Hollywood at Home is a weekly column by filmmaker, writer, and critic Keith Hodder that highlights the variety of films and television programs that Netflix has to offer, along with recommendations of what to watch next and his opinions on the world of entertainment.

Since the debut of Lilyhammer back in 2012, and with the success of House of Cards in 2013, Netflix has been cranking out a slew of original programming to keep the networks on their toes and has been taking home nominations and awards in the process.

In combination with their other programs, the slate has become a boon to procrastination worldwide.

Their latest offering, Master of None, created by and starring Aziz Ansari, tells the story of Dez, a 30-something manchild and actor in New York City.

Reviews and critics have been singing the show praise, adding another point of pride to Netflix’s reputation, but the introductory issue “Plan B” has me wondering if I’ve been watching a different show all together.

Though not completely flawed and without merit, this introduction is simultaneously in-your-face, yet lacking in its comedic approach.

Most of the humour is blunt and forward, leaving nothing to the audiences’ intelligence or interpretation. There’s no trust in them. It feels childish, takes no risks, and is stiff and forced throughout.

It feels as though it wishes to be natural, as though it deserves a laid-back and conversational approach akin to Linklater or Allen, but the humour and their execution simply doesn’t fit the bill. Something is missing.

The biggest offender to this objective is the camerawork and cinematography. Everything feels still and constrained. As the viewer, it’s easy to feel trapped in the mostly static frame and composition despite the humour, which seems unshackled and attempts the nonchalant.

This combination creates a haphazard presentation that ultimately left me confused and devoid of laughter.

Plot wise, Master of None crafts an excellent story within its lean time frame. Dez, having botched a hook-up, which opens the episode, saves himself from a potentially life-changing milestone by purchasing a Plan B pill for his partner.

The experience, along with learning that one of his friends is venturing into fatherhood, has him questioning his potential as a parent, and whether or not he’d like to have kids to begin with.

Various situations in the episode study these questions, and though the plot sometimes feels contrived in that the situations seem planned rather than a natural course of events, overall the timing and plotting is of expert craftsmanship.

Each scene has a purpose and contributes to what the episode has to say and what Dez is exploring – to have or to have not?

It’s worth noting that a pilot rarely encapsulates what a show’s creator wishes to accomplish and showcase.

There is simply too much to say and not enough time. There is a continued narrative and we’ve only seen just the beginning.

Many stories start small, taking few risks, getting a sense of their stride before they can really understand what they’d like to say and how they’d like to say it.

The amount of times I’ve heard of people turning away from Breaking Bad due to its first episode, which isn’t all that bad, but pales in comparison to when the show starts to pick up, attests to this understanding.

Those who have seen the show know it is one of the best programs to ever grace the television screen.

Will Master of None provide such an experience for comedy lovers? The pilot doesn’t instill me with confidence, but that doesn’t mean the other episodes aren’t deserving of views.

Over the next week, I plan to explore the rest of the first season, and after its completion, I will report back to see if my opinions have changed – for better or for worse.

I’m also keen to hear what you think and to start a discussion. Feel free to write to the paper or to tweet @KeithHodder.

Call me out, agree with me, throw a laugh-worthy meme in my direction, and we’ll see where the discussion takes us.

A still from Master of None
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