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Review: The Mindy Project (Pilot)

Note: Also check this review out over at 20 Something Magazine!

Just before watching The Mindy Project, I wondered, What’s happening with The Office again?  I’ve seen every episode because, after Jim and Pam, there was Erin and Andy, who haven’t “loved each other at the same time” (as Andy laments to Erin in the episode in which they finally do love each other at the same time). I found that perhaps more heart-breaking than Pam and Jim’s fairly common inability, in the early seasons, to get out of their own way to get together.

By the time Ed Helms, who plays Andy in The Office, turns up as Mindy’s date Dennis in The Mindy Project, concerns about The Office were gone.  Despite some misgivings with actors whose characters and/or shows are named after them, I was buying in.

Mindy Lahiri is not a damaged waif: no horrific childhood to overcome (young Mindy does homework on the couch while watching romantic comedies); no eating disorders (though she refers to herself as chubby and says that her body mass index is “not great,” she’s not obsessed with becoming thin); no drug issues (“I didn’t know that pot and marijuana were the same thing until college”).  She’s got the triumvirate – smart, funny, and pretty.  As an ob/gyn, she’s successful and educated.  Apart from her lack of a romantic partner, her life is pretty great, and that she seems to recognize this makes her appealing.

Mindy’s love for romantic comedies informs her character and the set-up of the show.  In college, while everyone is her dorm is partying and making out, she’s watching Notting Hill.  She’s so tuned in to the formulas of these movies that when Tom (Bill Hader), who caught her eye in the previous scene, enters the elevator after her, she recognizes her own meet-cute in progress and whispers in awe, “It’s happening.”

Tom dumps her and marries another woman, and her drunken oversharing at the wedding leads to her arrest after falling into a pool and being told off by a “hot, mean doll” that no one will ever love her if she doesn’t get it together.  This sets up The Mindy Project, the project being, I gather, that she’s going to get it together.

Last season ushered in the ladies: The New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Girls.  All of these shows featured women in ways that were creative, interesting, and funny and, though the characters have their various problems, they’re all pretty normal.  Depicting a 31-year-old woman who is essentially funny, sweet, and kind of dorky, if a bit lovelorn and anxious about the usual things (age, weight, the future), The Mindy Project is a nice addition to this mix of women who are doing pretty ok.

Plus, The Mindy Project has great men, in particular Danny, played by Chris Messina.  Messina has had my heart since his pot-growing mountain man in Humboldt County.  When Danny enters Mindy’s elevator, it’s clear he’s her foil, a fellow doctor who is the manly counterpart to Mindy’s sparkly girlishness.  The audience is twice told about his fistfight at a Springsteen show.  In my favorite scene, Danny asks Mindy about her date with Dennis:

“Was he a man?”

“What do you mean?  Yeah, of course he was a man.”

“No I mean, like, was he a man?”

“Danny, don’t just repeat it and expect me to understand what you’re saying.”

“Was this the kind of guy who, if you heard glass breaking in the middle of the night, is he going to jump out of bed, say ‘stay here,’ and look through the house naked with a baseball bat, or is he going to hide under the covers with you?”

It’s clear that Danny is the naked-baseball-bat kind of guy, and the women viewers will love him for it.

Kaling’s affection for romantic comedies has paid off with her own show – quick, witty, and funny, with likable leads who are clearly meant to be together but don’t know it, or want to know it, yet.  I am looking forward to watching them figure it out.

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