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TV TATTLE

Master of None didn't earn its Moments in Love reinvention

  • "If all Moments in Love did were foreground Denise and introduce her wife, Alicia, it would be a radical shift from Master of None’s status quo," says Alison Herman. "But the Denise of Moments in Love isn’t just older and sadder than the Denise of earlier Master of None. She’s unrecognizable, with only a passing resemblance to Dev’s erstwhile brunch buddy. This Denise is a New York Times–best-selling author, though literary aspirations never figured into her previous appearances—not even 'Thanksgiving,' the spotlight episode focused on Denise and her family." Herman adds that Aziz Ansari "has positioned Moments in Love as a reaction to trends elsewhere on TV. 'Right now, everything is so fast,' he told Indiewire. 'The idea was to go in the complete opposite direction.' With Moments in Love, though, Ansari and Waithe have veered so far away from TV it doesn’t seem like they had much interest in making TV at all. Clocking in at just over three hours, Moments in Love has the running time of an extra-long movie; with a self-contained story about a couple’s struggle with commitment, it has the structure of one too. Factor in Denise’s metamorphosis and it’s hard to shake the hunch that Ansari and Waithe had a feature-sized idea that got made by shoehorning it into their already-successful TV show. A more compact, single-dose Moments in Love may have even been a stronger one. All those still shots work well when establishing Denise and Alicia’s rapport, but by the time we watch Denise devour a burger in real time, they’ve worn out their welcome."

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    • Master of None Season 3 took the micro of what made its first two seasons great, made them macro, and somehow lost all the detailing that set the show apart: "The first two seasons of Master of None were never so good as when they dug deep into the lives of people outside of Dev (Aziz Ansari)," says Libby Hill. "The series provided us with windows into worlds we’d never before seen or experienced or had the opportunity to, for whatever reason. A particular stand-out was an episode in the second season, 'Thanksgiving,' in which we see Dev with best friend Denise (Lena Waithe) through a series of November holidays over the years that show her coming out as lesbian to her family and, in turn, her family coming to terms with their perception of their daughter and sister. It was insightful and emotional and tapped into something true. It was relatable because the specificity of detail was so finely wrought that it transformed into something universal. In other words, it turned into love. If you’re at all familiar with the third season of Master of None you’ll understand the irony of the above....The season feels like a painstakingly crafted facade. It looks as good as anything else you’ll find on TV. The production design is out of this world, but beneath, there isn’t much of anything behind that pretty picture."
    • Master of None is the latest breakup story to neglect to show why a couple was together in the first place: "Like many shows and films about breakups, Master of None jumps almost immediately into the central conflict," says Hannah Giorgis. "By the end of the first episode, it’s clear that Denise and Alicia’s marriage is collapsing, and the next three episodes chart that demise closely. Not until the final episode do viewers see why Denise and Alicia enjoyed each other’s company in the first place. After years apart, the two return to their old home—now being rented out by white owners—for a low-key weekend getaway. The grievances between them no longer matter now that they’re each partnered with a new person, but their banter is still familiar. The scenes are warm and light, the kind of vignettes that would’ve established the stakes of their divorce if viewers had seen them earlier. Instead, Master of None replicates one of the more frustrating pitfalls of breakup stories: not sufficiently showing why a couple liked each other initially, thereby weakening the blow of their parting."
    • Season 3 is a slow build to a stunning finish: "In theory, Season 3 should have as much emotional impact as previous seasons’ non-Dev episodes, such as Season 3’s 'New York, I Love You' and 'Thanksgiving,'" says Quinci LeGardye. "While it falls short of perfection, it’s an impressive feat that’s worth the slower pace. Its flaws are notable, including the pacing issues and shortage of great observational moments. But they’re outweighed by its success at presenting a more mature depiction of love, and showcasing Ackie’s exemplary performance. It isn’t the same as past seasons, and it isn’t necessarily better, but it’s definitely worth the watch."
    • Master of None is a rare Hollywood portrayal of IVF: "If you haven’t yet watched the new season, I should mention two things: 1. You should. And 2. Episode 4 basically focuses solely on Alicia, the now-ex-wife of Waithe’s Denise, as she painstakingly pursues her dream of becoming a single mother via IVF," says Holly Fazio. "I should also mention that there are several similarities between me and Alicia, played beautifully by Naomi Ackie. We’re both in what is considered the 'geriatric' stage of baby-making. And, as I mentioned, we’re both single and therefore going through this process alone. That isolation I felt — then and now — is amplified by the fact that Hollywood is stingy with fertility and IVF stories. Rarely if ever do we see the struggle as realistically and unsparingly depicted on television or in the movies as it was on Master of None. That’s what makes the installment so unique. While it was hard for me to watch Alicia go through her journey, I had never felt more seen. It was excruciating and gratifying at the same time, a reminder that I am not the only person who chose this courageous path."
    • Aziz Ansari says the IVF episode was one of his favorite parts of the season: “Topics that are in that zone — everyone’s dealing with it, but no one’s talking about it — are what I tend to gravitate toward,” Ansari said in an email to the Los Angeles Times
    • Master of None's IVF episode understands the value of a great nurse: Actress Cordelia Blair leans in on her real-life experience as a nurse for her portrayal in Episode 4. "Cordelia is the ultrasound nurse who examines Alicia to make sure the hormone injections are doing what they’re supposed to be doing," says Jen Chaney. "She’s also the one tasked with calling Alicia to deliver news that can be devastating or hopeful. Blair, who previously worked as a nurse in palliative care, infuses the character with such natural kindness that she comes across as both the ideal nurse and a nurse so recognizable, you could swear you’ve encountered her in a hospital or doctor’s office before. After a year in which medical workers have been celebrated for their courage and care, Cordelia is another reminder of what a difference it makes to a patient, in any context, to have a compassionate advocate holding their hand."
    • Co-creator Alan Yang says the Moments in Love season was made because "Aziz and I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again": "The idea for this season was taking classic techniques of filmmaking and applying them to an extremely modern relationship between two queer Black women," he says, adding: "We had discussions about him not being in it at all. Then we came back around and decided it’s cooler to see him and explore the idea of how friendships change over time. There’s been a lot of time since our last season. When we first made this show, it was a very optimistic time in this country. It was still the Obama presidency. A lot has changed, and we felt, tonally, this was more reflective of the year we just had."

    TOPICS: Master of None, Netflix, Alan Yang, Aziz Ansari, Lena Waithe




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