If you told everyone exactly how high school would develop, many would probably choose to go to hell. High school in America is a bizarre and rude time, a collective coming-of-age story that offers as much room for variety as there are people who go through it. Never Have I Ever, a new Netflix sitcom by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, the inventor of the Mindy project, takes up the basics of high school and gives them new life by focusing their story on an Indian-American girl. It is an absolute delight, one of the most enjoyable new binge watches you can currently make.
That doesn't mean the show is just sunshine – Never Have I Ever begins a tragedy when the father of protagonist Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy), suddenly dies and Devi inexplicably loses the use of her legs shortly afterwards . (This is all in the first few minutes). When Devi begins to get used to life without her father and with her disability, her mobility returns, just as curious as she left. Never Have I Ever is the story of Devi's attempt to return to normal life, and Devi wants to return with a bang – literally, losing her virginity to Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), the hottest boy in school.
This may not seem like a healthy thing to you to someone who is real or fictional. That would be the point: Never Have I Ever is not just an Indian-American version of the coming-of-age story, but also a story that turns youthful Rome-Com-Tropics into a vehicle for exploring grief. None of this ever takes a back seat to the Never Have I Ever comedy or its serious, empathetic storytelling. The show strives to keep its stakes small and focus on Devi and her friends and family, but they are surrounded by a group of friends and family members that are diverse and interesting enough to support a much larger show.
Although not every character can have their own subplot, they all have the potential for depth. Each character goes through something and experiences their basic trauma in real time. The show's central conflict is Devi's inability to see this, and she is slowly realizing that the process of dealing with her own extraordinary grief blinds her to what others are experiencing, and that the poor handling of that grief also connects her that will help her keep going.
Again: Never Have I Ever is also a very good comedy that is thrilling throughout. There's a clever and funny tale from tennis superstar John McEnroe (there's a reason for that). a bright, danceable soundtrack that highlights Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" in the pilot and remains in this sound environment throughout; and it shows a cast of wonderfully charismatic young actors. I have never felt like a cult favorite in an earlier generation of television, a one-season geek-style wonder. But times are very different now, and an Indian-American lead role is a refreshing change for this type of show – especially one that could be permanent.