Like the majority of people these days, I have been deep diving daily into Netflix like a hungry raccoon in a loaded garbage can, just looking for anything satisfying to watch to help pass my shelter in place time. Typically I shy away from anything that seems too teen centered, but like what happened when I stumbled upon the docu-series Cheer and instantly fell in love, the same thing happened last weekend when I decided to give Never Have I Ever a quick try.
The title alone had me hesitant at first, because what endearing qualities could a show named after an adult drinking game be able to give a middle aged woman? I’m also a bit beyond stereotypical coming of age stories at this point in my life (mostly because I’m currently living them up close and personal in my own home), but then I saw it was created and produced by Mindy Kaling, a la The Office and The Mindy Project fame, so I had to at least watch the first episode. And so I did.
Why I LOVE Never Have I Ever
And then when I finally got up off my couch around three hours and ten episodes later (yes, you read that right, I was unable to stop once I started), I wanted to stand up and applaud the most heartwarming, funny, smart, and also ENDEARING display of teen angst I had seen since I cheered for a shy Molly Ringwald to plant a giant kiss on Andrew McCarthy at prom.
It was THAT good folks.
When the show opens we meet Devi (played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), who is a new sophomore, and is devising a plan and goal to become one of the popular kids in her school. She and her friends plan to do this by getting boyfriends, but layered beneath what at first appeared to be a totally shallow plot line, is the fact Devi’s father passed away suddenly the year before. Also, her family’s Indian traditions and assimilation into American society become a factor in a few storylines, as well as the fact Devi has yet to deal with her grief after her father’s death.
As the series develops, we meet other characters dealing with an array of their own issues, including coming out as gay to their family, having workaholic parents who rarely spend any quality time with them, and even mother abandonment issues. But while this may all seem heavy and at times sad to watch, the series manages to easily foray in and out of these scenes with brilliantly written comedic dialogue. And to make things even more strange and awesome, the whole thing is narrated by John McEnroe. Yes, the tennis player!
The buzz on this modern coming of age story is mega hot right now, so much so that fans are already clamoring for a release date for a second season, and I don’t blame them one bit. With Never Have I Ever, Kaling has managed to create genuine, believable, adolescent storylines, and write heavily flawed, yet lovable and relatable characters, in a way we haven’t seen since John Hughes managed to do it flawlessly with his movies in the late 80s.
As a matter of fact, there were so many hidden homages to some of his films that were laden all throughout the series, that at times I just wanted to nod at the TV and say, “I see you Jake from Sixteen Candles,” and “There’s John Bender (Judd Nelson) from Breakfast Club.”
Now admittedly, I’m not a professional TV or movie critic, and honestly I’m not even sure if some of those scenes were purely coincidental (or maybe I’m just wishfully seeing things), but all I know is the main hunky boy character in the series is named Paxton, and he is a dead ringer for Jake. And another character – a smart over-achieving guy named Ben with a preppy dork persona who plays Devi’s academic nemesis (but later saves the day) well, he is Anthony Michael Hall in every movie Hall was ever in back then.
Never Have I Ever reminds me of my favorite ’80s movies
All this is to say that what Kaling has brilliantly created here is absolute must watch TV that needs to happen with your teen sitting right next to you. Many of the hard hitting adolescent themes are presented in such a skillful way they don’t feel forced or preachy at all, rather they’re told with great compassion and wit, which is a monumentally hard skill to master- just ask any parent of a teenager.
As for a season two, which I sincerely hope is coming because without spoiling things, the end does have a cliffhanger feeling, Netflix hasn’t made any announcements. But Kaling recently said in an interview with entertainment site, Collider she would like to keep the show running for as long as possible. “Obviously, we would love to keep doing the show forever, so we wanted a cliffhanger and not to tie up everything with a little bow,” she said.
I for one, will be eagerly waiting for it to happen!
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