Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens premieres January 22, 10:30pm on Comedy Central.
By Elazar Abrahams
Fresh off an Oscar snub for her turn in The Farewell, comedian Awkwafina is taking the airwaves in her semi-autobiographical comedy Nora from Queens. Honestly, I was not a huge Awkwafina fan going into this show. I had seen her in Ocean’s 8 as well as some of her early YouTube work, but they didn’t really appeal to me. I’m happy to report that despite playing a sad sack stoner character here, Awkwafina is charming as hell. You can’t help but root for Nora despite the awful life choices she makes.
As a comedy, the show leaves something to be desired. Weak jokes coast on the stellar cast. Thankfully, not only is the lead actress really charismatic, but the other three main characters make up the best TV family of the year. Lori Tan Chinn (who you may recognize as Chang from Orange Is the New Black) kills it as Nora’s grandmother. Her delivery and cadence is impeccable, and she had me laughing out loud, even if the line wasn’t that funny. BD Wong is Nora’s loving dad. He really shines in the back half of the season. And Saturday Night Live’s newest recruit Bowen Yang recurs as Nora’s successful cousin. He is a killer talent.
As implied in the title, the show is also super New York-y, which we here at TV and City are all for! Barely leaving her home borough of Queens (and admitting she has never been out of the tri-state area), Nora is as NYC as they come.
The 10-episode season begins as disjointed stories, often involving Nora having a mishap at a new job or running into an old friend from high school. As the series progresses, however, arcs begin to form and real plot takes shape. I found it to be quite satisfying, and some of the twists towards the end really reminded me of Hulu’s Ramy. Unfortunately, Nora from Queens just isn’t as funny as it could be.
On the upside, I’ve watched so many streaming shows recently that feel like they are made to be binged, and it was a breath of fresh air to take in a show meant to air weekly. I’d compare to another Comedy Central show: The Other Two. If you’re looking for a quick escape every week with a family you usually don’t get to see on TV, tune in.
I give Nora from Queens a B-.