Never Have I Ever: Highly Watchable, Not That Original

Willa Frank, Contributing Writer

Never Have I Ever, the new Netflix series released at the tail end of April, tells a predictable, yet funny and entertaining story. The show was created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, whom Kaling worked with for her earlier show, The Mindy Project. Here, Kaling explores themes of the first-gen American experience, teenage romance, and adolescent awkwardness (and charm!). The show is easy to pick up and impossible to put down. I’ll admit it—I watched the whole thing in a single sitting.

Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is a high school sophomore who desperately wants to be respected by the cool kids and, classically, get a boyfriend. The apple of her eye is jock, Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). Lucky for Devi, Paxton finds her awkwardness rather charming, but not necessarily in that way.

I’ll admit it—I watched the whole thing in a single sitting. 

Besides these polar characters, there’s Ben (Jaren Lewison), Devi’s academic rival, and Devi’s high-achieving friends, Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez). These friends and foes have their own subplots, such as Ben’s complex relationship with his parents. There’s also Fabiola’s questioning and ultimate discovery of her sexuality. These friends and their own stories all add depth to the show. With this cast, Never Have I Ever portrays the “realities” of high school in a decidedly unrealistic, but nonetheless highly entertaining fashion.

While Never Have I Ever may seem like every other coming-of-age rom-com on its surface, it actually succeeds in setting itself apart, a rarity in today’s shows about high school. Mindy Kaling takes great effort to portray at least some of the first-gen Indian-American experience. Many scenes take place in Devi’s home, where the relationship between Devi and her mother, childhood flashbacks, or conversations with Devi’s cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) add context to Devi’s character. Themes of familial expectations, the balance between personal cultural respect versus assimilation, and different ideas of what is appropriate for Devi’s age are definitely at play.

In case you are wondering… yes, the show is partly autobiographical for Mindy Kaling. She took great care in establishing a balance between authenticity and entertainment, from writing to casting. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is new to L.A., but in an interview with The New York Times, Kaling immediately liked her attitude. In this same interview, Kaling mentioned that although the show illustrates some of her own adolescence, she wanted the show to speak to the kids of today, making sure that the outfits, diction, and references were fully up to date.

Mindy Kaling has created a show which is light-hearted on its surface, but deftly weaves complex undertones which are relatable for any high schooler, and at times unexpected. Watch Never Have I Ever for easy and refreshing laughs, plenty of subplots, and a few heartwarming moments.