Never Have I Ever is Netflix’s latest coming of age dramedy created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher (The Mindy Project), that has the everyday teen set in its sights. I struggle with that last part. When I say everyday teen, I’m talking about anyone really, but more so, the teens who deem themselves to be “average” I guess. The ones who just sorta float by doing their thing with their friends and out of the limelight that the rich or vastly popular teens tend to be.
Never have I Ever focuses on Indian-American teen Devi Vishwakumar (portrayed by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) whose father passed away suddenly about 8 months prior at a school concert that Devi was playing in. Her best friends are Eleanor (Ramona Young), who is East Asian, and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), who is a half-Black, half-white girl coming to grips with her own sexuality. Funnily enough, the series features a narrator and it’s not Devi as one might expect. It’s none other than legendary tennis player John McEnroe and I have to say as odd as it may seem, it’s a stroke of genius. It felt to me that his role is meant to provide an inner monologue for Devi as he has sudden bursts of anger, sarcasm or even a parental like wisdom. He’s hilarious and delivers his lines expertly.
Devi and her friends are taking on a new school year and she’s decided this year is going to be different for her and her friends. They’re all going to get boyfriends and have a “sexy high school experience”. Devi daydreams and is determined she’s going to hook up with the highly popular swim team member, Paxton. She’s confident and highly determined and though her friends are supportive, as expected, Devi is headed for an uphill battle on all fronts of life and she’ll often find herself in some frustratingly funny predicaments.
Academically, her arch-nemesis Ben continually attacks her intelligence, her no-nonsense therapist pushes Devi to confront her feelings about the loss of her father and the circumstances surrounding it as well as her very commandeering mother Nalini(played by Poorna Jagannathan). Nalini wants for Devi to be more perfect like her drop-dead gorgeous, Cal Tech graduate student cousin, Kamala. Tough shoes to fill for anyone.
Devis often precarious relationship with Nalini is both touching and funny at the same time. There’s a real sense of Nalini trying to keep Devi to follow along with Indian traditions and Devi wanting to please that side while still wanting to do things her own way. She was born in the US and her external influences talk and do things differently than her devout Hindu mother. There’s an especially funny moment where Devi tells her mom that “High school’s a dick” at the dinner table.
At first, I wasn’t sure if Never Have I Ever was going to be something that would grab my attention for 10 episodes but knowing that Mindy Kaling was part of the series I had to give it a try. I’m a fan of her brand of humor and just in general I find her to be very funny. I was almost instantly captivated by the narration, the story and the characters. As a fellow smart ass, I quite enjoyed Devi as a character. Her smart assery which often gets her into trouble is something I can easily relate to. I know my mouth has gotten me into trouble fore than a few times. The young Tamil-Canadian Maitreyi Ramakrishnanm(who if you missed it above – plays Devi) has a great sense of comedic timing and I think we’ll see more of her before too long.
The cast is amazingly charismatic and their chemistry really comes off effortless. The girls interractions with one another feels so natural it’s like they’ve been real life friends for ages, which, is something Netflix seems to be good at finding with it’s young stars. Never Have I ever is a very funny new series mixed with a smattering of raunch and a side of teen angst I found this a be a real pleasure to watch. Here’s hoping that Season 2 get’s the green light
Never Have I Ever hits Netflix April 27, 2020