Warning: Spoilers are ahead for Never Have I Ever.
When you hear that Netflix's Never Have I Ever, a teen comedy from Mindy Kaling about an overachieving and very thirsty first generation Indian American girl, has a narrator, naturally, you assume it's '80s tennis legend John McEnroe. Oh, you don't? Well, don't worry even John McEnroe thinks it's a little weird that John McEnroe is the narrator of Never Have I Ever.
The thing is, seven-time Grand Slam singles title winner McEnroe is the MVP of the series. His narration becomes a helpful guide to the inner workings of Devi, played by newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who is not your average teen despite having the romantic desires of one.
After losing her dad Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy) a year prior, Devi is struggling to work through her grief — though, she wouldn't actually tell anyone that. Luckily, her dad's favourite tennis player would though. And there lies the reason as to why John McEnroe is a good fit for the narrator. He is a sentimental choice, a way for Devi to keep her dad with her.
It's also a sweet nod to Kaling's own parents, who McEnroe told Seth Meyers on his late night show last year, were "big tennis fans. They used to watch me play way back when." It's why he ultimately said "yes" when Kaling, whose own teen years inspired the show, asked him to be a part of it. Though, he admits, he was confused at first. "So all the sudden, I get this call and meet Mindy," McEnroe explained. "She said, 'Would you like to be the narrator of this series?' and I said, 'Are you kidding me?'"
McEnroe takes his job of being the Devi whisperer seriously, letting viewers into all things Devi as she tries to make it through sophomore year, hopefully, with straight A's and a boyfriend who is totally cool. With his sarcastic grumble he explains things about her life and culture that we might not know. Him dryly defining "aunties," who are Devi's non-relatives who still have the power to judge your life choices, but you can't say anything back because you're Indian, is pitch perfect.
Sure, the 61-year-old McEnroe isn't the logical choice to be the voice of a teenage woman of colour. (Seriously, try not to LOL when he says the phrase "serving a damn look," putting extra emphasis on that "oo" sound.) But he and Devi have more in common than one might guess knowing their 45-year age difference. Somehow her late dad knew they were kindred spirits, even telling her McEnroe, who had a penchant for yelling obscenities at tennis officials, is "a firecracker just like you."
They are two hotheads who feel things so deeply, but also for whom meditation might have done some good. For McEnroe, it could have stopped him from throwing rackets at chair umpires. And for her, it might keep her from throwing holy textbooks out of bedroom windows or proposing a nuclear war in Model U.N. But McEnroe's spitfire attitude is also inspiration for Devi to keep fighting and never back down.
Both McEnroe and Devi also have a penchant for making things about themselves. For Devi, it's forgetting about her friends to spend more time with her crush Paxton Hall-Yoshida, played by the internet's next boyfriend Darren Barnet. For McEnroe, it's filtering all of Devi's experiences through his own. It's why he refers to Devi and her academic nemesis Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison) as their high school's version of him and his on-court rival Jimmy Connors.
In many ways, McEnroe is Devi's spirit animal as she tries to survive 10th grade. And for viewers of Never Have I Ever, McEnroe is the all-knowing narrator that helps explain just how Devi is getting through it all. It's only fitting that in the season 1 finale it's the tennis great that ends up being the key to her finally addressing her grief. Him and that booming voice of his.