Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness TV Poster Image
Lovely, languorous series examines life's big questions.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Encourages contemplation, questioning, and deep thought, surely noble aims. Curiosity and communication are themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Patel and his parents have a loving relationship; his father, watching Ravi take a terrible shot at golf, reassures his son, "That was a high-energy shot, Ravi." The family clearly enjoys each other's company. It's joyful watching Patel and his parents, and Patel and his wife and child, relate in positive, happy ways. Series features people from many different backgrounds. Patel elicits information about their traditions and customs, is respectful and interested in what he hears. Participants are diverse in terms of age, race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, etc.

Violence

Death is one theme of the show. Participants talk frankly about death and loved ones they've lost; they cry while remembering; they talk about the end of their own lives; they worry about being ill and infirm, about the grief to come when they lose older loved ones. Patel visits a graveyard with his parents. A woman refers to kidnapping by making a joke about her fears of a "mysterious white van" that keeps her from allowing her daughter to roam their neighborhood alone. 

Sex
Language

Language is infrequent but expect "f--k me" and "c--k." A participant talks about the anti-Indian slurs that have been used against him: "towel head," "camel jockey," and "sand"-"N" word. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink at parties, dinners, gatherings. Sometimes the drinking is prominent, like when Patel tells a lunch table "We should get margaritas!" or does shots with a group. Marijuana comes up in conversation when Patel's dad asks if they can smoke pot together (we don't see it happen), and at one point we see a large bud of pot. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness is a documentary series in which the actor and comic travels to different international locations to tackle existential questions about life. The show has a deliberate pace and involves lots of deep discussions. Participants hail from many different places and have diverse backgrounds. Patel asks questions about their traditions, and treats the answers with respect, demonstrating extensive curiosity and communication. The show often ranges into serious topics, such as death. Patel talks about his fear of losing his own parents, while they talk about their fears of having an uncomfortable or painful old age. Other interviewees talk frankly about the loved ones they've lost, and their grief. Other mature content includes some prominent drinking (no one acts drunk, but Patel and others do shots and have cocktails and beer with meals or at gatherings), a visual of a marijuana bud, and a scene in which Patel's father requests that they smoke pot together. Language is infrequent but includes "c--k," "f--k," and a recitation of anti-Indian slurs (e.g., "towel head," "camel jockey"). But overall this show is gentle and sweet, and encourages viewers to think about their own lives and discuss how they can be better.

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What's the story?

Comic and actor Ravi Patel has a lot on his mind, and in RAVI PATEL'S PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, he puts some of his most nagging questions on the table. What does a happy old age look like? What about a happy childhood? Do we work to earn a living, or pour most of our lives into our work? With the help of family, friends, and the people he meets in far-flung locations from South Korea to Mexico to Denmark, Patel ponders and looks for answers. 

Is it any good?

As an exercise in grappling with life's momentous questions, this series is sweet and relatable, as well as deliberately paced and indulgently contemplative. At 41, Patel is at a classic age for questioning both himself and the notions he's always held dear (the concept of a midlife crisis didn't come out of nowhere). In Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness, he poses his queries and worries in a disarmingly straightforward fashion, looking right into the camera to address all the people in TV land. It's an effective gambit. After all, most of us worry about losing our aging parents, about guiding our children to independence without overstepping, about the bite that our jobs take out of our lives.

Pondering takes us to interesting places: to Mexico, where a crowd of thrifty expatriates have found a festive cut-price retirement; to Japan, where parents encourage their children to care for themselves in ways that seem unimaginably risky to Americans; to Denmark, where a rising wave of immigration has created new social challenges. He meets people who live in the places he visits, he eats, he drinks, they all talk. Assumptions are examined, traditions discussed. And it's lovely, albeit talky and slow. Patel is full of questions. The answers are slower in coming, but the contemplation itself is worthwhile, and holds subtle, nuanced pleasures for viewers taking a good hard look at their own lives. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness takes on fears and questions that are universal. How is Patel's life typical? How is it not? Do most people have the time and money to go around the world facing their fears and contemplating their lives? Does that change the type of things that they think and worry about? In short, are Patel's concerns relatable? Why or why not? 

  • Why does Patel travel to international locations in Ravi Patel's Pursuit of Happiness? What does a change of scenery or customs point out about Patel's life? Must one go on physical journeys to receive inspiration and knowledge? Do the unusual locations make this show more interesting? 

  • How does Patel demonstrate curiosity? What role does communication play in his quest? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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