Netflix gives us a series about a young Indian woman who is dealing with loss, love, and just being a dumb teen.
Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is a nerdy 15 year old Indian American in California. Her father, Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy), passed away last year of a heart attack, leading Devi to have a subsequent psychosomatic episode that paralyzed her from the legs down during her Freshman year. She recovers, thanks in part to her therapist Dr. Ryan (Niecy Nash), and plans to improve her life during sophomore year along with her two best friends: Science genius Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) and aspiring actor Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young). She decides that she’s going to try to hook up with the hottest guy in the class, Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darret Barnet), and avoid her “nemesis” Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison). At the same time, Devi’s overbearing mother Dr. Nalini Vishwakumar (Poorna Jagannathan) is dealing with Devi’s hot cousin, Kamala (Richa Moorjani), getting an arranged marriage. Also, the whole thing is narrated by John McEnroe as himself.
When I saw this coming up on Netflix, I thought it looked kind of like a generic high school dramedy. Still, it was high on Netflix’s rankings, so I decided to take a look at it and wow, I was really surprised. This does have all of the tropes of the kind of show that I was expecting, but it manages to do everything in a way that is clever and different enough to constantly keep you engaged. I then realized that Mindy Kaling created it and suddenly it made sense that it was so great.
The writing is top-notch and extremely quotable, often because of Devi’s unusual and angry point-of-view on everything. One of the first lines I remember is her quick response to a friend saying she sounds like a sociopath: “Sociopaths get shit done.” Devi is not just a smart and driven character, she is also packed with vulnerabilities ranging from guilt over her father’s death (he was at her Harp concert), anger at her mother’s treatment of her, and also just being plain horny. She has some serious issues that constantly impact her decisions in very real ways. Ramakrishnan’s performance is just as nuanced, something that is even more impressive when you realize how many layers of the character she’s having to play constantly.
The supporting cast is similarly excellent. McEnroe’s very genre-savvy narration gives the show the kind of vibe that often allows them to mock or embrace the tropes of the typical teen drama as the situation requires. Eleanor and Fabiola are both people that you probably knew from your high school, being the theater geek and the science nerd, respectively. Paxton is the hot guy who constantly has people falling all over themselves to get his attention and do things for him and, as a consequence, doesn’t always think things through. Devi’s mother is constantly trying to shape her life to be more like what is expected of her, but she also is clearly dealing with her own issues over not feeling close to her daughter and losing her husband.
Overall, just a really solid show that I was surprised worked as well as it did. Give it a try.
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