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Over to the dark side

Ansari’s Master of None shows the complexities in the life of an Indian trying to make do in the U.S.  

In a scene in the BBC series Fleabag, the protagonist — who goes by the same name — tells her father that she smokes “because it looks cool”. Fleabag is a young Briton who lives alone in London, runs a hamster-themed café, is broke but won’t borrow money, and has a devastating romantic life. The series came out earlier this year and was a rage among young people who saw similarities in the seething, disorderly, yet interesting life of a young woman and their own. Just like they did with Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, based on the life of a 30-year-old immigrant in New York.

Dark, twisted humour on television and Netflix is getting immense traction from audiences. People find solace in stories about the contorted lives of characters who are angry, frustrated, independent, and often wallowing in self-pity. The messy lives of present-day youth, combined with tightly-packed writing and snappy dialogues have hit the right note. Phoebe Waller-Bridge created Fleabag and acted in it. And, the six episodes of season one show how she turns even mundane everyday life into a disaster.

Ansari’s Master of None shows the complexities in the life of an Indian trying to make do in the U.S. With witty one-liners and ethnically diverse characters that manage to steer clear of stereotypes, Ansari’s series is well-loved too.

“I have a horrible feeling that I am a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally-bankrupt woman, who can’t even call herself a feminist,” Fleabag tells her father, who responds with, “You get all that from your mother.” These shows are semi-autobiographical in nature, and touch upon several aspects of modern lives — racism, sexism, gender, big-city loneliness and excessive technology. The jokes made in these series are rather unfunny and make the viewers pause and take note of their own lives. The comedy arises from a place of deep-rooted sadness and discomfort.

It is self-deprecatory humour in Channel 4’s comedy Flowers. The married couple, played by Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt, are at odds with each other about all aspects of life. The drama series is at once tragic, melancholic and funny. It tells the story of an eccentric family trying to pull together, but falling apart.

The strength of these scripts is their unnerving rawness. There is rage, happiness, fleeting moments of courage, and disappointment, all without the sugar-coating of background laughter. Viewers feel their own stories are being told on screen.

With the new series Atlantaon its way, the audience waits for Donald Glover to present the foul slice of life. Glover was credited with good work in 30 Rock and playing Troy in Community.

Sad-comedy as a genre is not new to television. American stand-up comedian Louis C.K.’s autobiographical Louie was aired on FX in 2010. CK helped launch the auteur era of comedians, which went on to give us noteworthies such as The Mindy Project, Fox (2012-2015) and Atlanta, FX (2016-present). He perhaps best summed it up when he said, “It’s a positive thing to talk about terrible things and make people laugh about them.”

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 8:47:35 AM |

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