I have never is the sweet and savvy Indo-American comedy we deserve.
Executive producers Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, the infinitely enjoyable new Netflix series achieves what Hollywood has long treated as a representative common thread: delivering excellent comedy and characters without apologizing to an industry and culture at predominantly white. All it took was a team of creators who know their story inside and out and really care about telling it properly.
I have never presents Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) – a name no character struggles with and you shouldn’t either – an American teenager who just wants the simple things in life, like going to his first high school party and hanging out with a hottie cold as stone. What the trailers left out is that less than a year ago, Devi’s father died of a heart attack and the shock temporarily paralyzed him from waist to toe. She could be all sophomores of high school hoping for a new start in a new year, but she sees the renewed use of her legs as a chance to return to balance after the disaster.
Oh, and this is all told to us not by Devi, but by tennis legend John McEnroe, for reasons that are promised but you don’t even wonder because it is precisely random enough to be perfect.
The second-year self-improvement plan includes Devi’s best friends, Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young), two gay and loyal nerds who balk at Devi’s slightly sociopathic strategy (“Sociopaths get fucked up” She said with a barely hidden hint) of pride). Her mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) cares less about Devi’s social aspirations (read: not at all) than about her university career and the family’s quest to organize the wedding of cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani).
With these simple pillars of intrigue and stellar melting, I have never envelops you. The 10 episodes of 30 minutes parade with impunity, bringing you a beautiful family of broken television whose daily humorous situations never reduce the pain they wear or the pressure they feel to offer a better future. “Life is good now,” says Devi to her therapist in a first episode. “And I can basically forget about all of those bad things that happened before. “
Obviously, it’s not that simple, but Devi fills her days with sufficient distraction. She stays at the top of the school to beat her longtime enemy Ben (Jaren Lewison) – despite claims that he is her sworn enemy, we will be damned if these two don’t have the chemistry to be buds . Even the plan to lose her virginity to Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) seems unbelievable, and Devi finds himself at more than one high school party where illicit substances and touching are on the table.
In his first performance, Ramakrishnan is nothing less than a gift. Devi is far from the perfect girl Nalini wants (and Kamala seems to be). She is angry, selfish, rash and rude. She experiences painful physical injuries (we are talking about blood) in each of the first three episodes due to a rash or erratic behavior. She disparages her own culture, yells at her mother, unleashes practically poetic insults on Ben, but in the hands of this actress and these writers, we never leave her corner.
Between Devi, Kamala and Nalini, the show frees any individual character from having to represent millions of Americans and billions of Indians.
Under the supervision of Kaling, I have never is both culturally authentic and comic gold. It’s an alchemy she spent almost 15 years perfecting in Hollywood, often to mixed reviews. The Mindy Project was initially criticized for the main character of Kaling, mostly dating from white men, and rarely, if ever, engaging in his Indian heritage. But that was the character, and frankly that was the television climate in which the show got its start.
I have never, basking in the rich Netflix library of 2020 and alongside the successes and missteps of Kaling and many peers in front of her, shines from the start. Between Devi, Kamala and Nalini, the show frees any individual character from having to represent millions of Americans and billions of Indians. He has the time and the platform to overturn occasional Indian stereotypes (vegetarianism, arranged marriage), while making it a simple facet of Devi’s journey to self-realization – a part of her that matures in tandem with her relationships with friends, boys, school, and family.
Many will praise I have never for his skillful portrayal (including this criticism), which is not entirely fair to the less visible characters and media that preceded him. But the influence of Kaling and Netflix is undeniable, and their attention is evident throughout the series. This may be the point where we don’t praise successful American Indian stories and characters, but raise the bar to a point where we should never lower it again.
I have never is now streaming on Netflix.