Why you should be watching Ramy on STARZPLAY
Ivan Radford | On 06, Jan 2020
Note: Ramy will air on Channel 4 from Friday 5th February 2021, with episodes airing weekly at 11.05pm and the box set available immediately on All 4.
“You really think God cares if I wash between my toes?” asks Ramy at the end of the opening episode of his eponymous TV series. And that kind of preoccupation is precisely what you can expect from the Hulu comedy, which delicately balances the big and the small, the profound and the pointless, the metaphysical and the mundane.
Starring and co-created by Ramy Youssef, the show follows him as a 20-something in New Jersey, explores the challenges of what it’s like being caught between a Muslim community that thinks life is a moral test and a millennial generation that thinks life has no consequences.
Youssef bases the programme on his own life experiences, and the result – not unlike Netflix’s Master of None – rings with authenticity. That starts with Ramy himself, a bundle of contradictions and nuanced complexities, wary of trying ecstasy but capable of impulsively trying weed, happy to consider sex before marriage but not willing to shower with a woman. He’s respectful of his family’s religion and culture, even as he questions their relevance to his modern life; he’s eager to grow up and find a purpose for his existence, but also longs for a simpler time before having to make decisions; and he dwells on following traditions and rules while casually breaking them every day.
That shifting, messy sea of attitudes, beliefs and priorities ripples out to everyone around him: where a lesser show, or generic sitcom, would leave the rest of the cast as shallow background jokes, Ramy ensures the whole ensemble are rounded, believable people. His mum and dad (Amr Waked and Hiam Abass) are conservative but concerned, his uncle is antisemitic but also well-meaning enough to defend a woman being assaulted in the street, and his sister, Dena (May Calamawy), steals every scene going with her amusingly sharp-tongued dialogue.
The result is a lived-in cast of characters who deliver brilliantly executed group set pieces, such as a dinner table exchange that sees Dena play upon cliched perceptions of menstruation and female sanity to escape the house. Conversations beween Ramy and his best friend Steve (Steve Way) extend to using Tinder as a Muslim and what counts as racist and not, with Steve’s muscular dystrophy simultaneously adding to the unheard perspectives of modern life getting a voice in the show, while never once letting his character be defined by his condition.
The result is both universal and specific, charting the challenges and experiences of a first-generation Egyptian-American who is reconciling the dual nature of his ethnic identity with the aimless confusion of a 20-something wondering what the reason for existing in the first place is. Coming of age in a politically-divided neighbourhood, showrunner Bridget Bedard ensures that the programme covers all many of topics and issues, subverting your expectations and tossing stereotypes aside with a heartfelt confidence that belies the fact that this is the first TV show he’s ever written. Deftly balancing the big and the small, it’s a tiny gem of a TV show that deserves to be a big hit.
Ramy: Season 1 and 2 is available to watch online in the UK on STARZPLAY, a streaming service that costs £4.99 a month. The platform is available on iOS, Android, Apple TV and Virgin Media On Demand or through Amazon Prime Video Channels, both as an add-on subscription to your existing account. Episode 1 to 5 are also available on All 4 until 9th May 2021.