If I had a nickel for every unoriginal, unfunny sitcom that premiered on network TV in the fall of 2015, I’d be able to afford a full week of Netflix immersion therapy. FOX’s “Grandfathered” is uninteresting. NBC’s “Truth Be Told” is unoriginal. And ABC’s “Dr. Ken” is just plain unfunny. Luckily, there are two hilarious — and very different — new shows that stand out from the muck. One is online-only and the other is on the network that brought us “The Vampire Diaries,” but both offer creativity and spunk and are perfect for a post-Thanksgiving binge-watch.
The first, Netflix-exclusive “Master of None,” is the latest entry in the giving-comedians-their-own-sitcoms trend, sanctified in recent years by the wildly original “Louie.” Comedian Aziz Ansari (who you may know as Tom on “Parks and Recreation”) has created the perfect conduit for his upbeat energy and nice-guy persona in the character Dev, an aspiring commercial actor. In “Master of None” he refines his innate bounciness into laidback likability, and surrounds Dev with a host of interesting, down-to-earth people. About half of the season’s ten episodes are strung together by a budding romance between Dev and music publicist Rachel (Noel Wells). The other half focus on broader issues, like the depiction of Indian people on television. The second episode, about the first-generation immigrant experience, is an especially lovely and dense piece of family dramedy. Ansari’s real-life parents play Dev’s parents — and while they’re clearly not trained actors, they lend the series authenticity and even display some great comedic instincts (his dad pretty much steals the show). Another episode focuses on the everyday sexism faced by women … and the responses of well-meaning but clueless men like Dev. “Master of None” in many ways resembles the big-city sitcoms of the’70s, from its old-fashioned title sequence to its emphasis on broad themes and moral issues. But the show is also intensely contemporary in its point of view, embracing those issues with an insight and wit that Ansari wields well.
The other great new sitcom of the season, the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” is radically different from “Master of None” (and basically everything else on television). Here’s the pitch, in one run-on sentence as breathless as the show’s “crazy” protagonist: Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), a successful young lawyer, leaves her cushy New York job for the tacky urban sprawl of West Covina, California after a run-in with her ex-boyfriend from summer camp reminds her that he was the last person to make her truly happy, but when Rebecca arrives in California she finds that her lost love Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) is also in love — only, it’s with his gorgeous long-term, yoga-doing girlfriend. Oh, and it’s also a musical. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has a razor-sharp wit and self-awareness in spades (Rebecca calls out the title “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” for being sexist in the theme song). The songs are always episode highlights, parodying genres from country ballad to Disney-licious pump-up jam. My personal favorite, “Feeling Kinda Naughty,” is a Mariah Carey-infused pop song about Rebecca’s girl crush on Josh’s girlfriend featuring the line, “I wanna kill you and wear your skin like a dress / But then also have you see me in the dress / And be like, ‘O.M.G., you look so cute in my skin.”
“Master of None” has received a great deal of media attention since it premiered last week, but “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has had a slightly harder time breaking through. Though ratings have improved a bit over the last few weeks, the show’s prospects for renewal may be somewhat bleak. So please, do your part to save this beautiful, hilarious work of art. Check out the show’s music videos on YouTube. Become addicted to its sharp subversion and watch each new episode Monday nights at 8 p.m. EST. And then, I beg of you: tell your friends.