Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: NEVER HAVE I EVER (Season 1, Netflix)

It’s really not that much of a revelation that I don’t like Mindy Kaling very much…as an actress. She’s an incredible fucking writer. She’s written some of the best episodes of The Office, The Mindy Kaling Project, and I really liked the Amazon Original Movie Late Night. She has an incredible ear for dialogue, character, plot, and story. So when I heard she co-created, co-wrote, sometimes even solo wrote many of the ten episodes of the new series NEVER HAVE I EVER, and especially when I found out that she doesn’t even make an appearance in it, I knew I wanted to watch it. No offense to Mindy Kaling as an actress, she has the personality of one, I just think she plays the same person in whatever she does, basically…she just plays herself, and she’s loud, too crude sometimes, and crass, and I just don’t care for it. Anything written by her though, I can’t wait to read or watch. Never Have I Ever is no exception. I fucking loved every minute of this short comedy series and my only problem is that there weren’t more episodes to watch and we’ll probably have to wait a long time for season 2 because of butthold COVID-19. In all the repeated bullshit of television, this really quick and wonderful binge was definitely a breath of fresh air. It’s funny, well acted, the dialogue is snappy and quirky, the characters are all nicely layered, even the supporting ones. It’s just a wonderful show and you should stop reading my review, not because of spoilers, I promise not to give any, but you just need to watch it for yourself. It’s that good.

Per Netflix and the series is about “the complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired (not directly based) by Kaling’s own childhood.” That teenage girl is played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and I was really surprised to look her career up, and this is her very first acting credit…ever. She does a phenomenal job for this being her first gig. Phenomenal. Other than two very recognizable narrators (one is just for a special episode dedicated its focus on a different character) who I will not spoil for the fun of it all, the cast is mostly filled with unknowns. And not only is all of their acting great, but all of their characters big and small have fantastic development and arcs and by the end of the ten episode first season one, they feel like a well established television family that I got to know very well and want to spend more time with. This series could’ve played on a regular network like ABC, NBC, FOX, etc. but due to the nature of some of the content (Devi, the main character, wants to lose her virginity to a hot guy and constantly talks about sex) and some well timed choice, yet not overused language, I’m very happy that it isn’t censored and not on Netflix. Makes the entire narrative and situations more relatable. And even though it is a coming of age sitcom, it feels more honest and realistic than most, and that is due to the excellent writing of creators Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher, & their team. I hope they all stay on for a second season (which is 100% at this point as it’s been in the top ten of Netflix for days now, this series was released last Monday).

Even though I predicted a lot of the things that were going to happen, the show brought them on in a way that kept me interested and wondering how a season two will play out. This season has a well established arc, and you think you know what it is going into the season, but doesn’t really show its true cards near the end. It’s a very strong message about family, and it completely sticks the landing. I’m just also amazed by how much the series subverts your expectations on some of the supporting characters. One character named Ben goes from a completely despicable asshole and morphs into one of the best characters. Another character, Kamala, the cousin of Devi, seems like she’s going to be a stereotypical good looking Indian woman that is too much into her looks, boys, fashion, but again, the show goes in the opposite direction and makes her a very smart and compelling character, another one of the best of the supporting ones. Every character is great here, even the jock the Devi ultimately wants to hook up with. By the time you are done with all ten episodes, you’ll feel like you are at home with the world within the show. It just sucks it’s only ten episodes right now and we might have to wait awhile for Season 2, but I have a feeling it will be worth the wait. The good thing about these 10 episodes is that they are definitely re watchable, over and over until we get a new batch of episodes. When a comedy get re-watchable episodes for me right off the bat, sort of like Seinfeld, Friends, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, etc….that is really saying something. Highly recommend. Never have I ever fallen in love this fast with a comedy series right off the bat. Check it out immediately.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LATE NIGHT (no spoilers)

FYI, I can’t stand Mindy Kaling as an actress. It’s not that I think she’s ugly or anything, I just can’t stand her high pitched whiny voice, her personality and demeanor, and that she plays basically the same character no matter which program she is on. That being said, I think she’s an incredible writer. She’s written some of the best episodes of the office, the best episodes of The Mindy Project, and LATE NIGHT is her first screenplay for a feature film, and I kind of loved it. It makes me look forward to her future projects for the big screen, and I will actively seek them out, unless she keeps acting in her writing projects. Unless she can change her acting style, I really would prefer that she took more of a role behind the scenes and less in front of the camera. Maybe even try her hand at directing, but definitely not direct herself.

Not only does her dialogue, story, and some unconventional little twists to her story make Late Night a nice bright spot in this June gloom summer month, but once again, Emma Thompson completely steals the show as late night host Katherine Newbury, who is about to lose her show even though she’s been on the air since forever, because the past decade her material and jokes have been stale and on auto pilot. No ‘umph’ whatsoever. To change this, she fires a male writer and asks that the show hire a female writer to spice things up. Kaling’s character, even though she works at a chemical factory plant, is the only woman that applies for the job so she just gets it. But with Katherine’s very uptight personality, things of course get off to a rocky start before they get better, and Kaling has a hard time adjusting to a writer’s room where she is the only woman, but once the two set aside their differences and work together, they just might be able to save the show.

Other than the acting from Thompson and the cute quippy dialogue, I actually liked the overall main story, even though in some parts I knew where it was going to go. However, Mindy Kaling threw me a couple of curve balls in several of the subplots that I didn’t see coming. There is one subplot with Katherine’s husband played by John Lithgow that I didn’t see coming, and he had one of the best speeches in the movie. And there is another minor subplot of Kaling getting a love interest in the movie whose conclusion I didn’t see coming as well. It’s the little unique changes in narratives in screenplays that I don’t see coming that I love coming out of movies. Mostly you get them in the big epic tent pole films, but these days, you kind of expect that. When they come out of these little workplace comedies, you end up appreciating them a lot more when they suddenly just show their faces every now and then. Next time though I would suggest to Mindy Kaling to not act in her own screenplays. They could’ve hired someone like Tessa Thompson (who stole the show in Men In Black International even though it sucked), or maybe even a complete no-name to fill in her role. If someone else had played Kaling’s part, I think the movie could’ve even been better than it was.

This review is going to be one of my shorter ones and end with this paragraph, because anything else I say would probably spoil the journey of the movie. What I really liked about the film is that it felt like everyone was working for and on a real late night talk show. There are a lot of movies that, with smaller budgets like these, make everything feel too fictional and visually under-bearing. When watching this film, I felt like ‘Tonight With Katherine Newbury’ had been on for years and I just couldn’t bring myself to ever sit down and watch another episode. And while the film was mostly a point and shoot affair, director Nisha Ganatra did a tremendous job with the performances and slight unique touches with framing at those big pivotal emotional scenes, that I would love to see more projects from her in the future. And Emma Thompson, I’m glad when I looked her up she’s won not only a Oscar for acting but for writing. She is one of the best actresses of this generation. Late Night is just a good time at the movies. And in the summer month of June Gloom, it is nice to have a little savior film to get you out of inevitable doom.