Recently picked up for a 2nd season on Hulu, now is the time for you to get into "Ramy."
Season 1 - Grade: B+
You may not yet know who Ramy Youssef is, but you will soon. The stand-up comedian is blowing up right now, and has his first HBO special on tap for this Summer. But it's his new 10-episode Hulu series, "Ramy," that has everyone talking.
Ramy stars as a guy named Ramy, but the character isn't quite based on himself (in addition to starring, Youssef also is a writer, director and Executive Producer on the series). On it's surface, people might look at it as a "Muslim version" of Aziz Ansari's popular "Master of None" Netflix show, which was a comedy that deals with the perils of dating, while Ansari infuses into it some of his own Indian-American culture. But "Ramy" is its own thing. It's a deeply thoughtful, spiritual character study that is relatable to anyone who has ever had a family, or has ever dated, or has ever questioned their own faith (re: pretty much everyone).
The "Pilot" episode sets the stage for the rest of the series, when we see Ramy fighting against some of the "expectations" and stereotypes that Muslim-Americans deal with. But just as the viewer may have their own formed opinions, stereotypes and opinions towards Muslims going into the show, we learn that Ramy too, is struggling against and with these same expectations. As the episodes go on, we learn more and more nuance about Ramy, and while the show is funny (there is a "dick pick" exchange between Ramy and his friends that will go down as a legendary comedic moment), I'm almost hard-pressed to refer to "Ramy" as a comedy...it is definitely more of a drama, with really hard-hitting laughs sprinkled in.
Just when you think you're going to keep learning more and more about this central character, about mid-way through the series, the perspective changes. We go back to Ramy's childhood and what he and his family experienced during 9/11. We then get an episode told fully from the perspective of his sister (May Calamawy), and then from his mother (the wonderful Hiam Abbass). When it shifts back to Ramy, this guy whom doesn't quite fit in with Muslim-American culture goes back to his origins in Egypt, only to find that he doesn't quite fit in there either.
"Ramy" poses questions about family, and the generational divides that shape us. It goes internally, dealing with one's desire to know God and to be closer to God, trying all the while to decipher which "laws" are man-made or possibly even out-dated. It's a story about friendship, and the commonalities we all have with one another, regardless of religious or cultural backgrounds.
I ended "Ramy" wanting more. Thankfully, having just been picked up for a second season, that's exactly what we'll get.
(BELOW: Watch my interview with Ramy Youssef and actor/comedian Dave Merheje.)
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