Sex-obsessed teens are nothing new in entertainment, but sex is just a cover for what the leads in this fresh and charming series are really seeking: love, acceptance, and validation. When we meet Devi, it's on the first day of her sophomore year of high school, fresh from having endured incredible pain and humiliation as a freshman. Chief among her woes is the untimely death of her father, an event that Never Have I Ever shows us in flashbacks that emphasize the horror Devi is hiding under layers of easier-to-take pain, like the embarrassment of belonging to a social niche Devi's nemesis calls the U.N. (which stands for "unf--kable nerds"). Devi knows she's not happy. But rather than dive into a pool of unfathomable grief, she'd much rather focus on more typical teen angst and worry about boys and being cool.
Thus Never Have I Ever, like Devi, has depths that are barely papered over with plotlines about parties and romantic misunderstandings, problems at school and fights with her mom. Underneath these everyday concerns lurks a terrible sadness, but on the surface Devi is a regular TV teen who worries if her outfit's cool enough, and hesitates to approach the boy she likes when he's hanging out at the "Hot Pocket" (where all the cutest, coolest boys at school sit at lunchtime). The moments when Devi and this show get real, though, are remarkable for their sincerity. When Devi blows off her therapist's suggestion that they discuss her father's death in favor of impressing upon Dr. Ryan (Niecy Nash) just how desirable Paxton is, the doctor gently reminds her that Paxton is also a person with feelings and problems -- and that instead of focusing on losing her virginity, Devi has the option of finding something to succeed at that will give her a more genuine and lasting happiness. At such moments, Never Have I Ever truly shines. By lacing fun and forgettable teen antics with true sincerity, this show rises above teen tropes and becomes something more than the sum of its parts.