On paper, ABC’s new comedy “Alex Inc.” might sound played out as a plot. However, it is actually a surprisingly sweet comedy that is solidifying its status with each passing episode. Alex Schuman quits his cushy job to pursue his dream, in this case it’s to start a podcast company, which will mostly be him recording his big family moments. Big whoop, right? Wrong. The concept works here because Alex and his family – Bengali-American wife Rooni and two kids, Ben and Soraya – are all terrific, genuine, and funny bunch of people.
Zach Braff and Tiya Sircar, who play Alex and Rooni, share a natural and easy chemistry on-screen. Rooni is a public defender, a wonderful mother, and obviously patient and supporting wife. Sircar, who does an exceptional job as the cunning Vicki on “The Good Place,” is the perfect fit for Rooni. In fact, she is probably the biggest highlight of “Alex, Inc.” In the five episodes aired so far, the entire cast has settled into a smooth groove. Elisha Hennig and Audyssie James, who play Ben and Soraya, are getting more to do and are doing it well. This was ever so obvious in last night’s episode, “The Mother-in-Law.”
In it, Alex, who is working towards launching his company with the help of his cousin Eddie and assistant Deirdre, cannot come up with a name for it. Meanwhile, Rooni’s mother Joya (Anjali Bhimani) pays the family a visit, throwing Alex for a loop because he is constantly trying to impress her, fearing she still doesn’t approve of him. He even sets up a classical music-themed alert for any Indian events happening in the vicinity.
Joya, on the other hand, does seem concerned that Alex is throwing away the chance to earn big money and take care of his family but based on her daughter’s request, tries her best to be non-judgmental. I love that they didn’t portray Joya as a stereotypical negative and nagging desi mother-in-law. She is spunky and sarcastic. When Ben wants to impress a girl in his class with his diverse culture, she helps him make samosas aka singaras in Bengali. They turn out to be too spicy for them to handle and her response is “I don’t know how to cook for white kids.”
And you know how I know the scene at school where the white folks can’t handle the singaras is great? Because when they’re busy complaining, the other Indian kid in the class sneakily asks for more and gobbles them up.
Bhimani shines in her guest role as Joya, especially in the pivotal scene in which Joya and Alex finally bond. She compliments him on leaving the comfort he had in his old job to start something new for the family. She gets it, she did the same when she immigrated to America. Then, Joya records for Alex and shares a deeply personal story of her as a young girl and how her dadu (grandfather) encouraged her to never fear the ajana (the unknown).
All of it strikes a chord with Alex He apologizes to Rooni, giving us another moment of depth in this comedy, and letting them show off that Braff-Sircar chemistry I was telling you about. Alex also finally decides on a name for his company: AJANA!
This episode also featured something I haven’t seen before on American TV: the Hindu festival of Holi. Earlier, Alex overhears Joya talking about how much she and even Rooni loved it as a child. He takes Joya and the kids to a Holi party, which turns out to be appropriation at its finest. Blaring non-Indian music, beers everywhere, and surprise surprise, no actual Indians.
To make up for it and to thank Joya, Alex and Rooni throw a small Holi bash in their own backyard for just the family.
Now, I have rarely seen Indian festivals being celebrated on the American shows I love so much. Mindy Kaling wrote “Diwali” for “The Office.” “Outsourced” had an episode called “Todd’s Holi Wars.” However, while this Holi party on “Alex Inc.” was a quick one, it was impactful. It left me wanting more.
I do hope the show doesn’t shy away from giving us additional and equally great moments of South Asian culture, or from bringing Bhimani back more frequently. Similarly, Alex and Rooni share a healthy and stable interracial relationship, one that you cannot help but root for. “Alex Inc.” works and with more time and room to grow, it can develop into something special.