Just like Crushable’s Jamie Peck, I went into The Mindy Project expecting to find it too cloying, too cutesy, too unrealistic. I found Mindy Kaling‘s The Office character Kelly Kapoor grating after a while, and whenever a show sets out to skewer pop culture, you have to worry about it dipping over into ridiculousness. (Consider how many of my friends hated Friends with Benefits for that exact reason, although you may not be surprised to learn that I loved it.) I think we all feel a certain obligation to self-preservation; maybe you didn’t even watch last night. Well, I’m here to tell you to stop being cautious and trust your instincts, because The Mindy Project is a funny, engaging sitcom with a lot of potential.
I love how Mindy makes it painfully clear how the women of today are trapped in rom-com fantasies about meeting the perfect guy in a broken-down elevator or earning applause for a drunken speech at your ex’s wedding. (And the fact that she casts Bill Hader in both of those scenarios is a cheeky backlash to typical Hollywood hunks.) A woman who subscribes to that formula for her life will only end up putting herself in those contrived situations where no one comes out happy. But who can blame her? It’s what we were all raised on.
This fictionalized version of Mindy is also a subversion of the usual rom-com heroine, who usually fits into one of two categories: Either she’s impeccably attired but unfortunately married to her job, or else she’s hopelessly, endearingly klutzy. Mindy is a hot mess for a lot of the pilot, staggering around in a ripped party dress with mascara stained from crying in the pool after a mean doll tears her down. But she’s also incredibly competent: She has her own private practice — I think, the mechanics of it were a little unclear — and in the pilot’s key scene goes from Date Mode to Doctor Mode with a firm resolve. For the most part, she has her shit together professionally, but it’s only when she allows herself to wallow too much in this fantasy rom-com world that she gets caught up in what’s missing from her personal life.
She’s also funny as hell.
As you can tell from this post, this is a .giffable show; there are a lot of smart one-liners about race, rom-coms, and often at Mindy’s expense. And even though you can see the romantic intrigue coming a mile away, I’m interested in seeing how Mindy and her arrogant fellow doctor Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) inch toward something resembling love. Maybe it’s because Chris is my fantasy boyfriend, but I like his brash realism compared to Mindy’s insistence on dwelling in a fantasy world. Their exchanges, mostly teasing, have already gone a little dark, like when she mocks him about his divorce and he goes straight for the weight issue:
Sure, it’s the easiest insult in the book, but the fact that Mindy included it really impressed me. Same with the almost offhand comments about race and racism, from Mindy saying that she needs “more patients who can pay” (i.e., white) to Mindy almost getting hit by a car and drunkenly yelling, “That’s racist!”
When writing about CBS’ new sitcom Partners yesterday, I reflected on how absolutely nothing happened in the pilot and, aside from the pretty cast, I felt like the series had already lost important momentum. For the longest time I didn’t understand why this sitcom was called The Mindy Project—or rather, I took the title literally and figured it was just a placeholder til they thought of something better. Instead, I realize that Mindy herself is a project. The pilot ends with her telling her best friend that she’s becoming more mature, even as she opens the door for her asshole fuckbuddy. In the moment, it’s what she wants, even though she knows it’s bad for her. She knows that one day she’ll grow out of it, that she needs to… but for now she doesn’t care.
Then again, the real Mindy kinda is a project, too.