A bit late to teen comedy Never Have I Ever’s Season 2 party, I binge-watched all 10 episodes on Netflix last night. And I was truly left wondering why friends had been less than impressed with this latest season; some even admitted they had left it halfway. I for one haven’t watched anything so hilarious, real or sweet in a while and Season 1 only whetted my appetite for more after ending on a romantic cliffhanger.
I (like millions of other fans) was left wondering — would the show’s teenage protagonist Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), the hot-headed, straight A-student with a penchant for getting into trouble pick nerdy, fancy-shmancy rich boy Ben (played by Jaren Lewison) to date? Or would Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) win her over with his toned physique, smoldering looks and not much else?
I am not ashamed to say that despite being a good quarter of a decade older than these lead players, I was as curious as any gossipy school kid to know the outcome of this unlikely triangle.
For those of you who have dismissed Never Have I Ever as yet another one of those mundane teen shows that drops every once in a while, you might be surprised at its depth if you give it a chance. Yes it has almost every token American high school character — be it the nerds (Ben and Devi), the jock (Paxton), the science buff (Fabiola, a brilliant Lee Rodriguez), or the artsy ‘actor’ with quirky outfits and a penchant for the dramatic (Eleanor, played by Ramona Young).
But what sets them apart is their unpredictability. Who says Paxton can’t impress a teacher? And does the seemingly perfect Fabiola always do right by everyone, including her robotics team? Despite their issues, these are teens one can admire, teens who pick themselves up when they fall, teens who learn from their mistakes — an evolution that never comes across as contrived, preachy or cliched on screen.
The characters grow on you and endear themselves to you slowly, whether it’s Devi’s mother, the conflicted, widowed Nalini (played by a sparkling Poorna Jagannathan), her ‘hot’ but ‘nerdy’ cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) who’s not sure if she’s ready for that big fat Indian wedding yet, or even her grandmother Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty) who comes to live with them and imparts some big life lessons.
A scene in Season 2 where she encourages Devi to have a conversation with her mother after a quarrel, telling her how you never know when you might be speaking to someone for the last time, had me welling up.
Saving the best for last, the show wouldn’t be what it is without tennis star John McEnroe, an unlikely narrator, you may say, for a coming-of-age teenage comedy. And yet, it is his lines that are some of the most hilarious. “I don’t usually condone cheating but this nerd is playing doubles like a pro,” he captions Devi’s romantic life as we fall about laughing.
Here’s hoping Season 3 of this uplifting show drops soon.