The mood is decidedly comic this week with the release of two impressive new series, the remarkable Netflix sitcom Master of None, from Parks and Recreation alumnus Aziz Ansari; and TNT's Agent X, an espionage actioner seasoned by satire co-starring Sharon Stone and Jeff Hephner.

From India with love

I'm not sure America is ready for Master of None. Ansari's semiautobiographical half-hour comedy chronicles the private life and career of a struggling New York actor. It's innovative, shockingly clever, sophisticated, sexy, and beautifully executed. In other words, it's the opposite of virtually every sitcom in prime time.

Netflix will post all 10 Season One episodes on Friday.

Co-created and co-written by Ansari, 32, and Parks and Recreation writer Alan Yang, Master of None features Ansari as Dev, the son of Indian immigrants. He's trying to break into film after appearing in a couple of successful TV ads. The show's success derives in large part from its terrific ensemble cast, which features Eric Wareheim, H. Jon Benjamin, Kelvin Yu, Lena Waithe, and Noël Wells. They slide effortlessly in and out of various story lines.

The show has the feel of an observational comedy. As in Seinfeld, much of the material is generated when Ansari and his circle of friends meet up to describe their experiences. Unlike the 1990s megahit, which had a rigid structure that was repeated in every episode, the Netflix show has a more open form that allows its writers to mix up different kinds of storytelling.

And though most TV comedies sacrifice cinematography for dialogue, Master of None has an impressive command of visual language, even managing to riff on different film styles.

Episodes are thematic. The pilot concerns children and has Ansari babysit a pair of anarchic toddlers whose mother he once dated. The next episode provides stylish mini-movie flashbacks that fill in the backstories of Dev's dad as a young boy in India and his friend Brian's father as a struggling farmer's son in Taiwan.

We also see scenes from Dev's first feature, a low-budget bio-horror shocker called The Sickening that costars a British thesp (Colin Salmon) obsessed with Cinnabons. Then there are Dev's many romantic misadventures, including a dalliance with a sexy, edgy beauty (Claire Danes) whose husband (Noah Emmerich) is a brutish corporate boss.

This is one of those comedies that bears repeated viewing.

Luscious man of mystery

He has a smile that spells impish mischief and sexy abandon at the same time, a wink that melts you where you stand, and a kung fu grip that'll blow your socks off. Meet super-spy John Case (Hephner), the hero of TNT's actioner Agent X, which premieres with a double episode at 9 p.m. Sunday.

An intelligence operative so secret not even the director of the CIA knows he exists, Case works directly under vice president Natalie Maccabee (a disturbingly young-looking Sharon Stone) and her chief steward, Malcolm Millar (Gerald McRaney). John Shea and James Earl Jones round out the cast as the president and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, respectively.

Hephner (Boss, Chicago Fire) plays Case as much for comic smirks as thrills. He shows off his graying but luscious hair as the series jets him around the world to battle America's enemies.

Despite a premise out of The Librarians - the Founding Fathers delineated the role of Agent X in a secret clause of the Constitution - Agent X has very little that's new. It goes pretty much where every spy show has gone before, including the wry mid-1960s dramedy The Wild Wild West.

I admit, Agent X offers boatloads of fun. It's a pleasant diversion filled with great eye candy. That includes leggy Russian model Olga Fonda, who costars in the first two episodes as a double-jointed circus contortionist turned Spetsnaz-trained operative who battles mightily - and mighty sexily - with Case. And the third installment introduces Carolyn Stotesbery (Olympia) as Case's clingy but brilliant ex-girlfriend.

Despite its nicely shot action scenes, Agent X is just more of the same. Unlike Piper Perabo's Covert Affairs, which also had a light touch, there's no attention to character here, just guns and mouths shooting off.




Master of None

Netflix will post all 10 Season One episodes at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Agent X

Premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on TNT.EndText