Thursday, September 22, 2016

Straying from the Party Line: Making the Low-Concept Show Work (Eventually)

“Master of None” scored a miserable 12 our of 20 on the Concept section of our checklist, so let’s look at the 8 questions it neglects:
  • There’s no central relationship we’ve not seen before.
  • There no ironic contradiction yet in the pilot.
  • The show is not set in an unsafe space.
  • The show doesn’t bring different economic classes together (or ever acknowledge economics)
  • Trouble won’t walk in the door on a regular basis.
  • There’s not much physical activity in Dev’s life.
  • No easily-promotable image.
  • No escalation at the end.
So is any of this a problem? If this was a network show with unknown leads, it definitely would be, but the show coasts into our living rooms based on the strength on the goodwill we already have for Ansari and Netflix. Both Ansari and Netflix are laid-back brands, and they’ve both proven that they know how to make that work, so we’re ready to try a low-concept show that’s not easy to pitch.
It is notable, however, that very frequently people recommending this show to others suggested skipping the pilot and starting with the second episode (which just won an Emmy). What’s different about the second episode? It deepens and enriches Dev and adds an ironic element to his life, as we meet his long-suffering parents whose lives are in such stark contrast to Dev’s.  They went through so much to get this life for him and yet he wastes most of his time and energy on trivial and superficial things. Although the parents only appeared in three episodes, their lingering presence makes Dev’s life more meaningful and compelling to us. We like ironic backstories.

The Dev we get in the pilot is appealing, but untethered and lightweight. We need something to tug down on that kite string a little bit.

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