Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Brown Nation? More Like Clown Station!

A few months ago when the new season of Master of None came out, I found myself on the Wikipedia page for "American television shows with Asian leads" and discovered that there existed a Netflix show called Brown Nation that was practically ALL Asian leads! South Asian leads, even! How had I never heard about it? Seeing that it was only 10 20-minute episodes, I started watching during my lunch break at work.

Brown Nation follows the trials of tribulations of Hasmukh (yeah, this show is about a motherfucker named HASMUKH, this show is Desi as fuck), who runs Shree Ganesh Computers Limited Inc, a struggling IT company specializing in Citrus (presumably a take-off on Citrix). His wife, Dimple, loves her little dog, Bobby, and her Papaji, but she wants to explore her artistic side. (In true sitcom fashion, of course, Hasmukh is an average-looking schlub whereas Dimple is the opposite of that.) His friend Hyder (Lebanese, everyone else is Indian) is fun comic relief with his endless get-rich-quick schemes. Hasmukh's company is staffed with Indians as well but for one white guy, Matt, the only white man in the credits. Of the workers at Shree Ganesh, the endearingly dim Balan is the most memorable, but Roli, Gautam, and Mookie (these names!) also make their impressions.

Creator Abi Varghese describes Brown Nation as "Everybody Loves Raymond meets The Office," and that's a fair assessment. It's a single-camera comedy with a multi-camera sensibility. It's generally cute and amusing, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but it knows what it is. It doesn't have extremely high ambitions; it's not trying to be a Master of None-style manifesto on Life as an Indian-American. There are some ongoing storylines, but continuity isn't a huge concern. It wants to be light fun.

And that's what's so great about it. It's light fun...that just happens to be all about brown people. Plus, it exists in this beautiful middle space where it can appeal to both American audiences and Indian audiences without pandering to either. It doesn't go so far in We're So Indian that it alienates non-Indian viewers (even if you don't recognize Bollywood film stars' names, you can understand in context who's famous and who's not), and it doesn't attempt to homogenize these characters and gloss over their essential cultural differences. Plus, given the recent conversation about the trend in popular media to show brown men pursuing white women, I do appreciate that this show features several brown men with brown women. It happens!

Brown Nation is not perfect by any means. It could have stronger continuity, the supporting characters are underserved, and it could be funnier. But it's consistently enjoyable, and I stretched out my viewing as long as I could because I was growing more and more fond of these characters. It's a wonderful cast, and I hope to see them in other projects. Perhaps even Brown Nation S2!
Tags: brown nation, new show squee, tv

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