We think this TV show stands out for:
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Never Have I Ever is a series (co-created by Mindy Kaling) about a teen girl who's mourning the death of her father. Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) learns to be more emotionally honest and to accept her grief as she navigates typical teen problems related to friendship, school, and romance. Expect lots of mature talk about sex (referred to as "boinking" and "boning," etc.). Teens scheme to have sex, but no one actually winds up having it. They do kiss, flirt, and talk about boyfriends, girlfriends, and romance. They also talk about characters' looks and bodies, including a scene in which girls say a boy looks like he's "smuggling a pepper grinder" under his pants. In another scene, girls use stuffed animals to demonstrate sexual positions, which they name ("reverse cowgirl," "love seat," etc.). One teen struggles to come out to family and friends. Teens also drink to the point of acting foolish and making mistakes, winding up with an injury that requires hospitalization. A girl urges her therapist to prescribe drugs including Klonopin and Paxil (the therapist doesn't). Violence is infrequent, but there are repeated flashbacks of a character's death (no blood or gore), and a girl hits a boy during an argument. Language is frequent and includes "s--t," "hell," "damn," and "goddamn." A boy calls a group of girls "unf--kable," and a girl calls her mom a "bitch." Nonetheless, the multicultural group of teens in this show are capable of great integrity and self-control: They make mistakes and learn from them, they treat others unkindly and then regret their actions and make amends. They also learn how to accept each other and live more authentic, happy lives.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher (The Mindy Project), NEVER HAVE I EVER stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a 15-year-old Indian American girl in Southern California who's been through a rough year. She's invisible to boys -- unless they want to mock her, like her chief rival Ben (Jaren Lewison) does nonstop -- she hangs out with a crew that other students find irredeemably nerdy, and worst of all, she's only recently recovered from a bout of possibly psychosomatic paralysis that landed her in a wheelchair for months following the untimely death of her father. With unfathomable pain lying just beneath the ordinary slings and arrows of teen life, Devi fixes on a solution: If she loses her virginity to hottest-guy-at-school Paxton (Darren Barnet), surely she'll finally be cool in the eyes of her classmates, and then she'll experience true happiness.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Never Have I Ever portrays teens and their struggles. Are Devi, Ben, Paxton, and other leads believable characters? What do you think of their attempts to use sex, romance, and alcohol to deal with their problems? What are some more constructive ways of coping? Is it a problem to depict underage drinking on TV shows?
Devi's mother is a strong central character who has lost her husband, Devi's father. Why are parents often absent in stories about teens and young children? What types of storytelling would the presence of parents inhibit? What types of dilemmas do children and teens find themselves in when they must act as their own authority? What drama does Devi's father's death add to this show? Is it realistic?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love teen TV
Find more TV shows that help kids build character.
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch