The complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood.
Fifteen-year-old Devi had the worst freshmen year. Her beloved father died of a heart attack in the middle of her band recital, and then she had to use a wheelchair for three months after her legs suddenly stopped working (assumed to be psychsomatic). She’s now back on her feet, in therapy, and confident that sophomore year will be the year she becomes cool enough that everyone stops calling her “FDR”.
But this show is about so much more than just Devi’s inability to deal with her grief manifesting in questionable behaviors. It’s a great exploration of Indian-American families, what it means to be a good friend, understanding your sexuality, arranged marriage, and a host of other topics I shan’t get into. Plus, it’s just freaking funny! The side characters are also excellent, as we get to know Devi’s strict mom and too-perfect-to-be cousin Kamala; Devi’s two adorable best friends, Fabiola and Eleanor, who each get their own subplots and time to shine; and even Devi’s brainy arch-nemesis with layers, Ben. Clocking in with only ten half-hour episodes, season one is a low-key commitment tailor-made for FYAers.
Unfamiliar Faces That Hopefully Will Become Familiar:
This is Maitreyi’s first acting credit, and she KILLS it! It probably helps that she is actually still a teenager, but she is such a natural with Devi’s awkward confidence. As the lead, Maitreyi’s portrayal of Devi has to carry this show, and she does an admirable job.
As far as the character herself, Devi is a bright, fast-talking, smart-alecky, and slightly self-absorbed ball of energy. I did not learn that Mindy Kaling was the creator of the show until I was halfway through it, but once I did, it felt totally obvious. Devi shares some similar qualities with Mindy Lahiri, though I’d say she is her own person. Devi will really try your patience in the middle episodes (she becomes a real crap friend, but luckily her friends call her on it) but I think her overall arc is really compelling and realistic.
Paxton is the hottest boy in school and the object of Devi’s obsession. I get the mystique of why Devi would like him (he’s hot, popular, and she’s not exactly picky right now), but, honestly, he’s kind of boring (for me).
Oh hey, apparently Darren has played Young Jack on an episode of This is Us. My biggest problem with the actual actor is that we’re all aware most “teen” characters are not played by actual teen-aged actors, but they tend to have a…youthful energy. No shade to Darren, but he looks twenty-nine. Putting him next to Maitreyi, who IRL is eighteen, gave me uncomfortable feels any time they got too intimate. Intellectually I knew the characters are only suppoed to be a few years apart, but my heart was telling me this was a child predator situation.
Aww, little Jaren was on Barney in years past! His character, Ben, is Devi’s “smartest student” competition and her arch-nemesis, which of course means they’ve got some enemistry flowing through their pointed barbs. (I very much enjoyed all the moments they had in class with their trying-to-be-hip teacher.) As the season goes on, we learn more about Ben’s lonely home life and how he masks his own insecurities with money and a hot-but-boring girlfriend. (In TMP terms, IMHO, he’s the Danny to Devi’s Mindy.)
And shout-out to the ladies who play Devi’s BFFs, because they are both so adorable, and I loved their quirky characters!
Poorna has been had many guest spots on many shows, so chances are you’ve spotted her in something. She plays Devi’s doctor mom who can seem very “first generation parent” strict with Devi, but more importantly I think it’s because they are too similar in all the wrong ways (inability to share their feelings and quick to anger, to start). She and Devi have some great moments at the end of the season that had me in actual tears.
Damn, Niecy has been in all the things! Is it sad that whenever I see her my first thought is always, “Oh, hey, that’s the host from the reality show about people having to clean out their messy houses!” In my defense, it was the first thing I saw her in. She always wore colorful flowers in her hair and she was so nice to those hoarders. Anyway, reeling it back in… Dr. Ryan is Devi’s put-upon therapist, who constantly tries to steer the conversation back to her dead father when all Devi wants to discuss is sex, sex, sex!
I fondly remember Sendhil as Mohinder from Heroes (Real talk: Why can’t high-concept sci-fi shows end as good as they begin!?) and so I was delighted to see him pop up in a handful of flashback scenes as Devi’s happy-go-lucky father. I’m sorry to say this in front of you, Devi, but: your dad is a DILF.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Low, But Text Your Friends
I picked this show on a Thursday night at 10 p.m. when I was feeling like watching something but bored of all my go-to series. It’s easy to watch on your own, and it’s not like it’s “must-see” TV for which you’d schedule a watch party. But after a few episodes I was wishing I knew at least one other person who was watching so we could text and compare notes.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low
I don’t think this needs much, if any, alcohol. In fact, maybe you should just stew in those awkward high school moments as sober as you can be, if only to full commiserate with the characters. Plus you never know when any coyotes may come around! (You’ll see.)
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Excellent
I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you have already watched this show, so feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments! It’s the perfect combination of quirky, real (but still kinda the idealization of high-school life), humor, and heart. It’s probably going to be a good year or more until we see another season (fingers crossed we GET another season), but the finale ties up enough loose ends without leaving us on any major cliffhangers.
Oh! One more thing I LOVED: I got a big kick out of the fact that John McEnroe—yes, the famous tennis player—is the narrator of Devi’s inner thoughts and often gives hilarious commentary on the sticky situations she lands herself in. (It’s also perfect that during the episode that Ben’s perspective is heavily featured, his narrator is Andy Samberg.) It’s a weird meta/break-the-fourth-wall aspect of the show that some may dislike, but really worked for me.