Review: 'Ramy' smart, engaging, progressive TV

The Hulu series starring Ramy Youssef is a new spin on a familiar style

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Ramy Youssef in "Ramy."

A hate crime is committed in a New Jersey neighborhood. Someone has spray-painted an inflammatory statement on the wall outside a Muslim-owned restaurant. 

The owner couldn't be more ecstatic: It turns out it's great for business. 

"It couldn't come at a better time!" says Mo (Mohammed Amer), looking around at the packed tables in his diner. "Ramadan and hate crime? My God, I couldn't pay for that kind of publicity. This is great. Look at this place. It's jammin'!" 

More'Ramy' star Ramy Youssef has faith in his comedy

The bit occurs a few episodes into "Ramy," Hulu's new 10-episode streaming series, and it's just one example of the way the series is blazing its own path. 

The show stars and was created by Ramy Youssef, the 28-year-old comic who plays Ramy Hassan, a character loosely based on Youssef's own experiences growing up as a millennial Muslim in northern New Jersey. 

In the show, Ramy deals openly and honestly with his faith in a way that is rarely portrayed on American television, let alone for Muslim characters. It shows his dedication to prayer, his struggles with the stringency of his religion, and his desire to be good in the eyes of God while still living his life. TV characters dealing with faith are typically depicted as squares or religious nutcases, but Ramy is relatable: he's just a dude, dealing with his family, his friends, his job, his dating life and yes, his religion, too. 

In that way, "Ramy" is like a lot of TV shows — there are strands of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Atlanta" in its DNA — but its fresh perspective makes it unique. And it's not afraid to color outside the lines; one episode is a flashback to 2001 and young Ramy's experience on 9/11 (the episode is just as much about his character's introduction to masturbation as it is about the attacks), another is told entirely from the perspective of Ramy's sister, Dena (May Calamawy). 

The writing is rich and layered, the references are topical — one character calls Ramadan "Coachella for Muslims" — and "Ramy" explores topics and themes that feel quietly revolutionary. And like the diner owner's thoughts on the offensive graffiti outside his restaurant, it couldn't be coming at a better time. 



Now streaming on Hulu