Review: Never Have I Ever

Kate Dunkerton reviews Mindy Kaling's Netflix series Never Have I Ever.

Kate Dunkerton
19th June 2020
Credit: @maitreyiramakrishnan, Instagram
After binge-watching shows I’ve already seen many times before, I was in need of something fresh and new to watch. Luckily, I hadn’t had the chance to get round to Mindy Kaling’s Netflix series Never Have I Ever, and now felt like the perfect time to see Kaling’s new venture into the teen world.
Credit: Netflix, IMDb

Partially based on Kaling’s childhood experiences growing up in Boston, Never Have I Ever follows Devi, an Indian-American teenager coping with the aftermath of her father’s death. Portrayed by newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Devi decides this year is her year to become popular, go to parties and get a boyfriend. Of course, like with any teen comedy-drama, there are going to be some obstacles in the way, particularly being her overbearing mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and her not-so-cool best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Wong). After suffering from paralysis because of the trauma of her father’s death, Devi only got noticed at school because of her wheelchair, which is why she is determined to change her circumstances during her sophomore year.

However, we can’t blame everyone but Devi for her poor social status. She often shows very questionable traits, especially when it comes to her unrequited crush Paxton (Darren Burnet). Devi will often ditch her best friends for a chance to simply talk to Paxton, despite his initial lack of interest in her, to the point where she ignores their issues. It’s Devi’s awkward and cringe-worthy interactions with Paxton which cause most of her problems.  

Credit: Netflix, IMDb

When the series shifts its focus from Devi, we see into the life of her classmates and her cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani). Where Fabiola struggles to come to terms with her sexuality after developing a crush on classmate Eve, Eleanor is in turmoil after discovering her estranged mother has been working at a local restaurant. Within Devi’s family, Kamala begins to rebel against a traditional arranged marriage set up by her parents as she studies for her PhD at Caltech. This all goes unnoticed by Devi as she always puts herself first, believing her problems give her the right to be a bad friend.     

the series has been lauded for its portrayal of South Asian representation on TV

Never Have I Ever is predictable and nothing original, but it’s still an enjoyable series and has been lauded for its portrayal of South Asian representation on TV. Although the series is partially based on Kaling’s childhood, she has updated her experience from the 80s to appeal to the present audience. This is especially noticeable with the pop culture references and millennial trends such as Tik Tok.

Credit: Netflix, IMDb

I also have to mention that the series is narrated by none other than tennis legend John McEnroe, which might seem confusing at first but is quickly clarified in the first episode. Despite the unconventional choice of narrator, McEnroe’s deadpan delivery of Devi’s awkward life suits the tone of the series.

Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever is an easy-watch and was just the thing I needed during this boring lockdown.

Credit: Netflix, YouTube

Featured image credit: @maitreyiramakrishnan, Instagram

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