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Series / Never Have I Ever

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"I'd like to be invited to a party with alcohol and hard drugs. I'm not going to do them; I'd just like the opportunity to say, 'No cocaine for me, thanks. I'm good.'"
Devi praying to the Hindu gods in "Pilot"

Never Have I Ever is an American coming-of-age dramedy television series on Netflix starring Tamil Canadian actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, its first season premiered on April 27, 2020, and its second season on July 15, 2021.

Fifteen-year-old Devi Vishwakumar (Ramakrishnan) thinks that sophomore year is time to rebrand. Tired of being an ostracized Nerd, she encourages her best friends to join her in her pursuit of high school coolness. But friends, family, and her own feelings stand in the way. Tennis star John McEnroe narrates, As Himself, occasionally substituted by other celebrity lemony narratorsnote  for the shows' spotlight episodes.

The series features a large Ensemble Cast. Single-character tropes go to the Characters sheet. Beware of spoilers!


Never Have I Ever provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Malcolm Stone is said to have starred on a fantasy Disney show before transferring in. His actor, Tyler Alvarez, did star in fantasy sitcom Every Witch Way (albeit for Nickelodeon).
  • Adult Fear: There are a few incidents from the show that fit if you look from Nalini's POV. She loses her husband to a heart attack, her daughter temporarily loses the use of her legs while swimming in a deep pool, her daughter sneaks out and goes to parties (one where she gets attacked by a coyote and ends up in the hospital), her daughter is doing who knows what with an upperclassman, and her daughter runs away from home after a huge argument.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Implied with Ben's parents, Vivian and Howard, as they are portrayed by Angela Kinsey (b. 1971) and Michael Badalucco (b. 1954) who look their real-life ages. Ben's father is actually older than most of the parents on the show, compared to his wife. Justified as Ben's father works as an agent in Hollywood who was looking for a Trophy Wife.
  • Advertisement:
  • All Men Are Perverts: Overlapping with Hormone-Addled Teenager, the principal accuses Ben of wanting to see "teenage boobs bouncing around" when he mentions his girlfriend's upcoming field hockey game.
  • As Himself: John McEnroe narrates as himself. Later, Andy Samberg narrates for Ben's Day In The Limelight, and Gigi Hadid narrates for Paxton’s. McEnroe later appears in the S01 finale, in the flesh.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Ben-Devi-Paxton: Despite their longstanding rivalry, Ben and Devi have a lot in common and can keep up with each other intellectually (Betty). Paxton is the handsome, unattainable, popular guy with whom Devi doesn't have as much in common (Veronica).
    • Devi-Ben-Shira: Shira is more popular, glamorous, and distant than the supposedly-homely, unpopular Devi, but Ben is more on Devi's level than he is on Shira's level.
  • Birds of a Feather: Downplayed. Prashant and Kamala instantly hit it off and have a lot more in common than she thought they would, so she agrees to date him without the pressure of an arranged marriage. However, she is still apprehensive about staying with him long term.
  • Bollywood Nerd: An important part of the setting. The SoCal Indian-American community is very academically focused and high-achieving. Protagonist Devi's dream is to get into Princeton, her cousin Kamala is getting her PhD, and Kamala's would-be fiance Prakash is an MIT alum. When Devi speaks to a college counselor, he tells her that there's nothing unique about her story as there are many overachieving Indians vying for Ivy League spots.
  • Black Comedy: Ben's encounter with a middle-aged creep he met online, who promised him friendship and bonding over their favorite cartoon, is depicted somewhat lightheartedly. However, it is clear that the man is a predator. Ben quickly leaves when he realizes the man is not just there to talk about cartoons.
  • Butt-Monkey: While Devi is selfish and dishonest, she gets a lot of flak. She's called "crazy Devi" by her peers, she gets suspended for mishandling a moment of jealousy, and Paxton's friends treat her pretty invisibly.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Devi is disciplined for sneaking out and spying on her mother. It turns out her mother was seeing Dr. Jackson and lied to her about it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Subverted. Devi dreams about her father Mohan in the first episode and bolts upright, but the dream is not terrifying, just surprising, since Mohan is dead and she's more confused than actually scared.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The characters are teens in high school who are dealing with their own identities and issues (coming out of the closet, parental abandonment, romance, death of a parent).
  • Convenient Slow Dance: Inverted at the Winter Dance. When Paxton publicly shows up next to Devi and offers to dance with her, the DJ puts on a fast song. They slow dance anyway.
    Devi: You've gotta be kidding me!
  • Cosplay: Kamala's labmates engage in cosplay. Evan and Setseg show up at the Vishwakumar household dressed as Loki and Piccolo.
  • Dawson Casting: Conversed In-Universe when Devi and Kamala watch Riverdale. It shocks Kamala that the characters don't look like high schoolers; Devi jokes that the actors are older than her mother.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Ben Gross has one. Instead of McEnroe narrating, it's Andy Samberg. The audience gets a deeper outlook on his character and home life.
    • Paxton gets his own in Season 2, narrated by Gigi Hadid. It focuses on his attempt to become more academically-inclined.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Everything Paxton says to Nalini makes her more annoyed.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • Grown men and boys alike salivate at the sight of Kamala. Even Eleanor's loyal boyfriend Oliver can't stop his attentions from straying when she's around.
    • Gigi Hadid also gets distracted as she's narrating Paxton's life when he's shirtless and pours some liquid on his bare chest accidentally, saying to put on a shirt so she can make her point.
  • Double Standard: In the third episode of the second season, "...gotten drunk with the popular kids," we see Trent's mom flirting with Paxton, groping him to feel his muscles and asking who he's taking to prom. She's flirting with one of her teenaged son's teenaged friends, right in front of him no less. She even jokes about Preston taking her to prom, "lifting" her up and "throwing her down." Trent shoos his mother away, and the incident is largely played for cringey laughs, whereas the exact same scene with the genders of the characters reversed would be a creepshow. The seventh episode "...been a big, fat liar," has Eleanor's mom, Joyce, refer to Paxton as "Sexton," calling him "sexy" and "a hunk." Imagine her dad describing one of her female friends like that.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: When Devi says she wishes the Nazis killed Ben during a class discussion about the Holocaust, she's rebuked for it by the principal, as not only is it not generally funny, but Ben's also Jewish. She apologizes to Ben for her remark, to which he blows the comment off (knowing she actually has issues that caused her to lash out).
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Jaya Kuyavar sits by herself at Ganesh Puja. After marrying an American Muslim man instead of the one chosen by her parents, she is an outcast in the Hindu Indian community. Seeing this adds further pressure for Kamala as she realized this is what can happen if she marries Steve instead of Prashant.
  • First-Episode Twist: Devi's dad, Mohan, has a heart attack and dies at her band concert, and John McEnroe is the series narrator because he was Mohan's favorite athlete.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: The now-dead Mohan was the Gentle Touch, Nalini is the Firm Hand to Devi. This dynamic makes Devi resent Nalini greatly, because she thinks Mohan was her only parent who loved her and actually made an effort to connect with her.
  • Gossipy Hens: The "aunties" (older women) in the Indian Hindu community are all huge gossips. Anyone who finds this annoying avoids them as much as possible.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Paxton thinks of a slogan for their group project. It's the closest thing to a genuine contribution by anyone who isn't Devi, but it's also not a very good slogan. His friend Trent tells him so and that they should leave everything to Devi, who is the smart one. Still, it's a notable moment, as it shows that Paxton does try; he's just not academically inclined, making people (including his own sister) verbally put him down for being Book Dumb.
  • High-School Dance: The back half of the second season builds towards the winter dance, which takes place in the finale.
  • Hollywood Beauty Standards:
    • Devi and her friends are referred to by fellow students like Ben as "the UN" which has more lookist meaning (Unfuckable Nerds) than racist implications. Justified as they are attractive young women but live in a suburb not too far from Hollywood and Ben's father is a celebrity lawyer (which probably would have colored Ben's perception somewhat).
    • Also lampshaded when Kamala says she is too curvaceous to become a model.
    • Lampshaded again when Kamala starts binging Riverdale:
      Kamala: What's so interesting about this show is everyone has different backgrounds, but they're all hot.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: A central premise. Devi is obsessed with securing a boyfriend.
  • Huge Girl, Tiny Guy: Fabiola says she doesn't want to date Alex Gomez because of how much shorter he is. Devi tells her to go for it anyway because he's handsome.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: An ellipsis before a phrase that would complete the sentence "Never have I ever...", just like the party game.
  • Idiot Ball: Devi thinking she could date two guys simultaneously. It doesn't last long before they find out, and both are very angry with her. She's generally smarter than this, but is just so thrilled that both are into her she does it anyway.
  • I Miss Mom: The whole series is thematically built around Devi and her mom adjusting to life without her dad.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    • In S01E01, Fabiola protests the accusation that she and her best friends are uncool by pointing out they're the only students allowed to eat with teachers at lunch.
    • In S01E05, this is part of Devi and Ben's banter. She calls him pretentious and unlikable; he follows it up by saying he can't be those things because his dad drives a Porsche Cayenne. He says she has a somewhat difficult personality; she responds by threatening to punch him in the Adam's apple.
  • Irony: In episode 1, Ben is accused by the principal and then by Devi who runs with it of being a pervert after he says he has to attend his girlfriend's field hockey game (Devi also accuses him of having a foot fetish not long after), however, in episode 6 it's actually Ben who is catfished and lured to a restaurant by a middle-aged pedophile who asks him to blow on some pizza.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Multiple characters are mentioned to be attending prestigious schools like Stanford, Caltech, and UCLA, while Sherman Oaks High is indicated in dialogue to be an Ivy feeder school. Moreover, Ron’s counselor company gets 90% of students into Ivies, without counting Penn and Cornell.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: College counselor Ron states Devi doesn’t have a good chance of getting into Princeton unless she has an interesting story. Though condescending, he makes Devi realize that taking AP classes and joining multiple clubs to pad her resume won’t impress Ivy League schools. Thousands of students with the same high grades and multiple extracurriculars apply, so she won’t stand out. Due to low acceptance rates, students need significant accomplishments and intriguing life events in essays in order to be a strong applicant.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Kamala watches Riverdale, she points out how the actors are both unrealistically hot and much older than their teenage characters. Paxton is an idealized hottie who looks nothing like how real teenagers actually look like because he's played by an actor who was pushing 30, which is emphasized even more by how the rest of the cast are played by actors (born in 2001, 2000, 1999) a lot closer to their characters' ages.
  • Lemony Narrator: McEnroe's narration is in this style, and includes references to his own life and tennis career. Andy Samberg narrates Ben in the same way, and Gigi Hadid does for Paxton too.
  • Look Both Ways: When Paxton storms out of Devi's party after finding out she's two-timing him and Ben. He doesn't get seriously hurt, but breaks his arm which puts his sports scholarship to college at risk.
  • Love Confession: In "...been a perfect girl", Fabiola says she loves Eve while they're at the dance.
  • Love Informant: In the season 2 finale, just after Paxton and Devi have a Relationship Upgrade, Eleanor tells Ben that Devi had initially wanted to choose him.
  • Love Triangle: Just as Devi and Ben finally act on their Belligerent Sexual Tension, Paxton has a Love Epiphany for Devi.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: The show begins with Devi's father Mohan's untimely death, which traumatizes his daughter and is suggested to be the root cause of her issues. Part of her Character Development is accepting that he is gone and moving on. It also applies to her mother Nalini, who finds it difficult to raise Devi without him and tries to move on romantically.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers really play up the Hormone-Addled Teenager aspect of the premise, giving it a more light tone. The show itself actually deals with more heavy issues than teen sexuality and relationships, such as serious trauma and dysfunctional family lives.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Kamala is typically sweet and pleasant, even making Devi a lunch on her first day and talking to an outcast woman at Ganesh Puja.
    • Mohan is an understanding father who encourages Devi's fiery spirit and encouraged her to try to play the harp and tennis and he was so friendly and easy-going that even their old realtor was saddened by his death.
    • Oliver's very supportive of Eleanor's feelings, especially regarding her mother and conflict with Devi.
    • Eve's very sweet and patient, understanding even of Fabiola's argument with Devi and helping her with the fruit punch stain on her white suit.
    • Jonah is very friendly and sweet, helping Fabiola out and being her's and Eleanor's support system as they deal with Devi at her worst.
    • Aneesa's consistently charming and friendly to everyone, easily winning people over as a result, including Devi (although she's also jealous of this).
    • Though he goes over the top at times, he's trying genuinely to help his students and be inclusive of everybody. E.g., his reaction upon learning Aneesa's a Muslim is immediately offering her a prayer rug and a place to pray if she wants.
    • Prashant, who is more amused and appreciative of Devi's vocal candor (when she said they were expecting an "uggo") and very enthusiastic about Kamala's career ambitions (even getting her a beaver key chain as the animal is Cal Tech's mascot) and tells Kamala he understands that she is not ready to marry.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • When Devi accidentally spills Fabiola's drink all over her expensive suit, Devi was genuinely stopping her from drinking the beverage out of concern (Ben just told her that Trent put his balls in the punch as a joke, and Devi saw Trent laughing at people who drink from the punch bowl). Yet Fabiola dismisses this as Devi making another "weak excuse" for acting crazy.
    • In general, plenty of Devi's attempts to do good/fix her mistakes lead to her being dismissed or getting frustrated.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The usually sweet Kamala's outbursts when relationships are mentioned, since she had to break up with Steve, her boyfriend — an American man of East Asian, rather than South Asian, descent.
  • Pair the Smart Ones: Devi and her "nemesis" Ben are the two smartest kids in their grade and their academic rivalry turns romantic at the end of season 1.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Played with. Kamala is initially quietly against the idea of an arranged marriage and plans to stay with her boyfriend Steve; however, her suitor Prashant actually turns out to be a nice and attractive guy. Kamala ends up breaking up with Steve when he tries to propose to her, saying she doesn't want to get married to anyone right now, and after talking with Prashant they find a connection and decide to see each other again. While they have a long-distance relationship in season 2, Kamala is still apprehensive about the idea of marriage, and deserts her proposal dinner to spend time with the teachers at Sherman Oaks High.
  • Popular Is Dumb: The cool kids at Sherman Oaks High are all airheads. Paxton is a Dumb Jock who relies on his prodigious swimming skills for college admissions; his friends Trent and Marcus are dudebros who are slow on the uptake. Their female friends Shira and Zoe are Brainless Beauties. Conversely, Devi, Fabiola, and Eleanor are all rather brainy and/or passionate about hobbies and are at the bottom of the food chain; Devi's rival Ben is not very well-liked and is only proximate to the "Hot Pocket" because Shira is dating hm for his money.
  • Popularity Power: Even though Devi is certainly acting out of line at Model UN, her newfound popularity means that almost every other student in the room rallies behind her.
  • Racial Face Blindness: In the fifth episode, in denial that her mother is waiting tables and hasn't reached out to her, the Chinese-American Eleanor accuses Paxton of mistaking her for someone else and by extension, thinking all Asian people look alike. Paxton responds by pointing out he is half-Japanese.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: In contrast to the Vishwakumar's smaller, warmer (although still good-sized) home, Lonely Rich Kid Ben lives in a modern mansion predominantly decorated in white.
  • Rivalry as Courtship: Of the "crush stems from rivalry" variety between Devi and Ben. They start out as intense rivals, but gradually become closer over the course of the show and emotionally connect. They end up kissing in the first season's finale.
  • Self-Deprecation: In the first season finale, when Devi tells John McEnroe that her dad was his biggest fan but he's dead now, John quips that most of his fans are these days.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Discussed by Devi, who blames this as part of why she doesn't know anything about sex.
    Devi: It's like, I think about sex 24/7, but I don't really know how to do it. In the movies, you always see the girl kiss her way down the guy's body, but then, she moves off-screen. Is she stopping at the penis or kissing all the way to the foot?
  • Shout-Out:
    • Riverdale gets a lot of focus in the third episode; Devi introduces Kamala to it.
    • When Eve says Fabiola pushed Devi into Ben's pool at the party and Fabiola argues that she fell in by herself, Eve laughs and replies, "Okay, Big Little Lies.
  • Silly Prayer: The show has this in the very first scene. Among other things, she greets the gods with: "Hey gods, it's Devi Vishwakumar, your favorite Hindu girl in the San Fernando valley. What's popping?" She also asks for the opportunity to turn down drugs (but not actually take any, just turn them down); a mega hot boyfriend (brains not required, she's happy with a Brainless Beauty); and thinner arm hair.
  • Strict Parents Make Sneaky Kids: Devi and Aneese grow up in a South Asian subculture where teens generally aren't allowed to date, sneak out, or get piercings and it seems to not stop them. The latter only grows bolder after meeting "a rebellious Indian kid."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Devi is super attracted to Mr. Fanservice Paxton and behaves like the standard Hormone-Addled Teenager. However, she freezes when they actually try sex together, due to her lack of experience.
    • When Devi is desperate to join her mother and cousin to spread her father's ashes with them, Ben proclaims that he'll get her there in time. But while he can drive, he's also a really awkward beginner who's really nervous about getting into an accident, so he doesn't so much dramatically race her to her destination as they nervously putter and wobble their way there. Devi lampshades that he made it sound like they'd be going a lot faster.
    • Devi gives a public apology to Aneesa about the rumor she spread. But when you're suspended and standing on a school bench, it won’t take long to get sent back home. Devi finishes her interrupted apology when Aneesa visits her.
  • Stealing the Credit: Throughout the second season, Kamala works her ass off at her lab rotation and eventually makes a major discovery. However, when it's time to turn it in as a journal article, her asshole boss leaves her name out, with the Nobel-winning scientist who leads the lab being hands-off about it. Indignant, she adds her name to it and leaves the lab.
  • Token Good Teammate: In Season Two, Setseg is the only worker at the lab where Kamala works who is actually nice and helpful to her, both when he gives her a heads-up that Evan is planning to steal the credit for her work by leaving her name out of a journal article and later when he tips her off about Evan's weaknesses as part of a plan by her to sneak her name back on the article so she can get her due credit. Also, unlike Evan, he actually pronounces her name correctly.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Devi's best friends: prosaic robotics captain Fabiola and excitable drama club member Eleanor. They dress very differently; Fabiola dresses like "the janitor's nephew" while Eleanor is always in eclectic, colorful, patterned outfits.
  • Two-Teacher School: In the first season, the only Sherman Oaks High School staff with any importance or screentime are Principal Grubbs and Mr. Shapiro. Justified, as all the major characters are in Mr. Shapiro's history class, so it serves as the "classroom" setting, while Principal Grubbs' office serves to discipline Devi when needed. No longer the case in the second season, which introduces the school's college counselor (Ms. Warner) and an English teacher (Mr. Kulkarni).
  • Two-Timer Date: In 2x02 "...thrown a rager", Devi is now dating both Ben and Paxton. She ends up hosting a house party that both of them are attending. She plans on keeping them separate, so they don't find out she's seeing both of them.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Played for Laughs in S01E02, when Devi tells Fabiola and Eleanor an embellished version of her encounter with Paxton. To be fair, he really did agree to sleep with her, just not as fawningly as he did in her fake version.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Just as Devi seems to be moving on with Ben (due to realizing how he's been there for her), Paxton has a Love Epiphany and decides to stop being a Jerkass to get her back.
  • Warm Place, Warm Lighting: The show, set in Southern California, uses yellow-filtered scenes to introduce Chennai, India when Nalini visits in season 2. Her initial scenes visiting her family are also shot with yellower lighting than normal.


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