Mo Review: Mo Amer’s bittersweet sitcom is exactly the kind of series Netflix should be making more of

The new series from Netflix Mon starts almost like The sopranos. We see a burly character (comedian Mo Amer) driving to work. The shots alternate between Mo smoking a cigarette and skipping to the tunes of Paul Wall and Big Pokey’s “Sittin’ Sidewayz” and half-lit shots of the world he’s passing – not New Jersey, but Houston, Texas. He comes to work (a technical repair shop) and is abruptly fired, fearing that the company may become the target of an immigration raid (Mo is a Palestinian refugee). Later in the episode, he gets involved in a random shootout at a supermarket; he gets a bullet in the arm but refuses to go to the hospital without insurance. Does that sound a lot like comedy to you?

Obviously not, one might think. but Mon is not a traditional sitcom. Created by Amer and comedian Ramy Youssef, the eight-episode series, which draws on aspects of Amer’s own life, belongs in the school of bittersweet, artsy modern sitcoms that include such as Atlanta, ramy and master of nothing. The comparisons to ramy are inevitable thanks to the joint presence of Youssef (who also created and stars in it). ramy) and Amer (who plays Ramy’s cousin Mo on the award-winning Hulu series). But from the beginning Monit’s clear that this is his own thing: a little less profound maybe, but quicker to joke – and with his own unique point of view.

Most MonThe story threads of are built in the first episode. After getting back to his old job – selling shoes and handbags from the trunk of his car – Mo sets out to find a real job. In another ongoing storyline, he tries to navigate the intricacies of the US asylum system to secure legal status for himself and his mother, Yusra (Yusra Najjar). Mo’s immediate family also includes his brother Sameer (Omar Elba), who is on the spectrum. The supporting cast are all solid, but Teresa Ruiz, who plays Mo’s Mexican-American friend Maria, is a standout, and her character adds another interesting perspective — and some cultural clashes — to the mix. Basically, Amer’s performance is quite fun, with his innate comical charisma slipping through the dramatic facade in spurts.

At a time when Netflix’s go-live strategy is under increasing scrutiny, Mon feels like exactly what the streaming service should champion: smart, understated adult programming with a clear sense of identity and a strong creative voice. At best, this doesn’t really feel like a Netflix series. (Perhaps the involvement of A24, the film distribution company known for its slew of acclaimed indie hitssuch as lady bird and Everything everywhere at onceis a factor.) Fans of ramy shouldn’t simply expect more of the same, however Mon tells a sharp, funny and often very moving story that more than deserves to be heard. Mo Review: Mo Amer’s bittersweet sitcom is exactly the kind of series Netflix should be making more of


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