It would be easy to call the new Netflix comedy Master of None Aziz Ansari’s version of Louie. The show (released on Friday) follows his semi-autobiographical character Dev, an actor living in New York, through the mundane confusions of dating and dealing with his family. It’s also shot more like an indie film than the network sitcoms Ansari made his name on. But while Louie is often aggressively dreamlike, Master of None feels like a perfect distillation of Ansari’s best comedy. It picks apart the social conventions of his generation, ponders the insidiousness of racism and sexism in entertainment, and obsesses over his inability to form romantic connections—a smart comedy of manners that has more in common with Seinfeld than its contemporaries.
Master of None, which Ansari co-created with the Parks & Recreation writer Alan Yang, presents each of its episodes as a half-hour mini-movie with its own title card, and while there’s a loose plot thread running through the season, this is no typical Netflix binge experience. Ansari’s romantic travails form the spine of the pilot episode, an enjoyable hook that only hints at the show’s larger strengths. But the second covers his relationship with his parents (played by Ansari’s real mom and dad) and the dynamics that play out between the first and second generations of immigrant families, and it’s a tremendous achievement—easily one of the best TV episodes of the year. Master of None’s 10 entries vary in quality and subject matter, but that experimentation is a perfect use of the Netflix format.