“Ramy” is a groundbreaking show that doesn’t act like a groundbreaking show.
In a perfect world, a first-rate comedy-drama about a first-generation Muslim-American immigrant wouldn’t be a big deal. But “Ramy,” which dropped its entire first season last Friday on Hulu, doesn’t have enough company in pop culture right now. Although things seem to be improving, with the success of "The Big Sick" and "Ms. Marvel," and several other series featuring Muslim-American leads are reportedly being developed.
“Ramy,” created by standup comedian Ramy Youssef, is so winning in part because it doesn’t try to be the standard bearer for an entire religion, and doesn’t try on its own to correct misleading stereotypes about Muslims that pervade pop culture. Instead, it's a funny and honest show that’s specific to Youssef’s comic perspective and universal in its theme of an immigrant searching for his place in America.
On the show, Ramy is a 28-year-old American of Egyptian and Palestinian descent in New York City, working at a startup, and hanging out with friends at night. He also believes in God, abstains from alcohol and prays regularly. He wants to live a life that allows room to be both a devout Muslim and a Manhattan millennial, to have (as Youssef has put it in his standup act) both “Friday prayers and Friday nights.”
That’s not easy, obviously. He soft-pedals his religious beliefs when dating non-Muslim New York women. When offered wine at a party, he tells his Jewish girlfriend that he’s “hit his limit.” (Left unsaid is that his limit is zero.)
Feeling a fraud, he decides to try and date Muslim women to make his parents happy, although he’s unsure how to proceed. (“Do I ask her for her father’s number?” he asks a friend.) But then, when the Muslim woman he goes out with turns out to have a kinky side, he’s torn between being tempted on behalf of himself and disapproving on behalf of his religion. Which the woman then rightly calls out for stereotyping Muslim women.
In some ways, he envies the absolute certainty of the men of his father’s generation, such as his hilariously awful uncle (Laith Nakli), whose unrepentant sexism and racism are played for laughs. His uncle may be terrible, but at least he never questions his faith or his place in the world.
“Ramy” follows in the footsteps of shows like Pamela Adlon’s “Better Things” or Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” comedies that draw heavily from the lead actors’ real lives. But “Ramy” gets more ambitious and poignant as the 10-episode season goes on; one episode is an extended flashback to how young Ramy experienced 9/11.
Between “Ramy,” ”Shrill” and "PEN15,” Hulu is having a banner spring when it comes to half-hour comedies.
Also on streaming: When Netflix was founded, CEO Reed Hastings probably didn’t include “revive the romantic comedy” among the company’s strategic goals. But between “Set It Up,” “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” and many more, the streaming site has ushered the rom-com genre into the 21st century.
In “Someone Great,” which debuted last Friday, Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin” plays a 30-year-old Rolling Stone writer who reels after her boyfriend of nine years breaks up with her.
Michael Connelly’s enduring Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch returns for Season 5 of “Bosch” on Amazon Prime. Titus Welliver plays the take-no-guff Bosch, and this season’s plotline draws heavily from Connelly’s best-seller “Two Kinds of Truth.”