Four years after its second season, Master of None is back with a new season and a makeover. Instead of starring Aziz Ansari in a semi-autobiographical tale, Master of None will now drop five new episodes centered on Denise, Lena Waithe’s character, and her partner, Alicia (Naomi Ackie from The Rise of Skywalker). All episodes are written by Waithe and Ansari—the writing team behind the Emmy-winning episode “Thanksgiving”—and all episodes are directed by Ansari. It does not sound like Ansari means to appear on camera this time around, which fits in with the lowered profile he’s kept since The Reckoning in 2018.
In case you forgot, Ansari was accused of sexual assault during the Hollywood Predator Advent Calendar year following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Ansari’s situation was never as cut and dry as the criminal allegations being laid against Weinstein at the time, and it seemed like if anyone could bounce back from such allegations, it would be Ansari, whose style of stand-up, a mix of confessional and dating self-help, was primed to address the elephant in the room. But Ansari did not meet the moment, and he’s been keeping a low profile ever since. He had his comedy special in 2019, and he appeared in the Parks & Rec Zoom show last year, but otherwise, directing new episodes of Master is the most visible he’s been in a couple years, at least on TV; he toured in 2019.
The question is whether or not people are ready to spend time with him in our living rooms. Of all the ways to entertain people, television has always been the most intimate, because we see television stars the most—we might only see a movie star once or twice a year, but a TV star every week for two-thirds of the year—and we invite them into our homes. We leave the house for movie stars, or, we used to, but TV has always lived with us. While I’m never going to view Ansari the same way again, I think I am ready to have Master of None back, especially as it heads in a new direction. I enjoy this show, and it is the result of more than just Ansari (Alan Yang is a co-creator, and Waithe has been a writer all along). I am low key glad he had the sense to stay behind the camera on this one, because after his comedy special, I’m not interested in sympathizing with his hapless TV persona, when he made zero effort to sympathize with the woman he harmed. But I like Lena Waithe (her new show with Little Marvin, Them, turned out polarizing), and I like the tone and intimacy of the new trailer centered on Denise and Alicia. I’m at least willing to see how this turns out, but your mileage may vary.