Netflix and Smiff: Master of None / It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia / Win It All

Hello and welcome back to my new column, Netflix and Smiff, which is in no way an example of thinking of a title and building a feature around it. Not at all.

Master of None was my favourite new series of 2015 so I was eagerly awaiting the release of new episodes, with 18 months far too long to wait for fresh material from creator and star Aziz Ansari.

But the second series – now available on Netflix – met my lofty expectations and then some. We left Dev on a plane, bound for Italy after his break-up with Rachel, and this is where we pick up.

The first episode of season two is artfully shot in black and white as we learn about Dev's new life as a pasta apprentice, meet his new friends and are introduced to who appears to be the central love interest, a British traveller named Sara.

netflix and smiff june 28 master of none embedKicking off the series in Italy is the sort of big, bold and innovative move Master of None has made its name on, but the episode where Arnold visits feels more contrived and didn't work for me. Dev moves back to New York and lands a gig hosting a lame cookery show, Clash of the Cupcakes.

The next two episodes – Religion and First Date – are among Ansari's best work so far. The former sees him explore his relationship with Islam – with more great appearances from his actual parents – while the latter documents a string of intertwined internet dates, at the end of which Dev looks broken in a long shot focused fully on his face in the taxi ride home.

There are more risks later in the series – one episode focuses on the stories of three individual New Yorkers and barely features Dev at all – but we then settle into a more traditional 'will-they-won't-they' romcom vibe with one of his Italian friends, Francesca.

Most importantly, Master of None is still very funny indeed. As Dev, Ansari just about straddles the line between nice guy and Nice Guy™ so that while we can root for him, while acknowledging his flaws. There has been some blowback about the way Dev pursues Francesca - who is engaged - but she is clearly unsettled in her relationship and the attraction between them is evidently mutual.

It was inevitable there would be some form of backlash against Master of None – nothing can be so universally popular and critically-acclaimed without one – but it is misplaced. Ansari remains one of the most important comedic talents around and hopefully we won't have too long to wait until season three, especially as we left Dev and Francesca on an ambiguous cliffhanger.

netflix and smiff june 28 always sunny in philadelphia embedWhile Master of None strikes a liberal, idealist tone, the same certainly cannot be said for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Netflix), season 12 of which is available to stream now.

Typically, Sunny wrongfoots us with a musical episode straight out of the gate, The Gang Turns Black, in which the gang, erm, turn black. It's their unique way of exploring prejudice and discrimination in modern America and it's hard to imagine any other show doing this.

The rest of season 12 conforms to most of our expectations of Sunny. It's very dark, incredibly funny, and none of our characters change one bit – just how we like it. My favourite of the new episodes was Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer, a riff on true crime series like The Jinx and Making a Murderer. Murder is chips, as Charlie says as he debates the appeal of them with Mac.

While most sitcoms grow stale when the leads start settling down and having kids, there's no fear of this happening with the gang and two more seasons have already been commissioned. Once they are completed, Sunny will become the joint-longest running live-action American comedy series. That Sunny has achieved such a feat while being so weird is a sign of how streaming services like Netflix can bring fairly niche shows like this to a much larger group of people.

As well as breathing new life into long-established series, Netflix is increasingly producing its own material of course, with the latest Joe Swanberg film Win It All released globally in April. Swanberg remains far from a household name despite now being able to cast the likes of New Girl's Jake Johnson and Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Joe Lo Truglio in his small-set films.

Win It All tells the story of Johnson's gambling addict loser Eddie, who is for some reason entrusted with a large amount of money by a local criminal. Inevitably, Eddie uses it to fund his habit and loses it, but rather predictably he wins it all back, inspired by the love of a good woman.

It's a cliched movie at its heart but the deliberately gritty low-budget feel and look of the film lends it a certain gravitas, while the brotherly relationship between Eddie and Lo Truglio's Ron works. Win It All gambles on Johnson's personable nature to make the film hang together and it just about pays off. While Swanberg cut his teeth in the mumblecore movement, the rather traditional story and conclusion here suggests he is eager for more mainstream success.

netflix and smiff june 28 win it all embed

Jamie Smith is a Screenjabber contributor

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