TV Review - The Mindy Project

Mindy crashes her ex-boyfriend's wedding
in the pilot of "The Mindy Project"
On the Season 9 premiere of The Office on September 20, the character of Kelly Kapoor, played by Mindy Kaling, was seen leaving the show. Her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Ryan Howard, played by B.J. Novak, followed her. Five days later, both Kaling and Novak appeared on a new series on a new network. Kaling appeared in person as the star and head writer. Novak appeared in name only as a producer. Both were writers and producers on The Office, but their on-camera roles were usually relegated to the background. The Mindy Project changes that. It puts Kaling front and center. I always wondered what Kaling and Novak did in the back of The Office while the show focused on Steve Carrell's exit or who might replace him. What they were doing was creating great television, which now they're unleashing onto American airwaves and Internet wires.

Mindy Kaling plays Mindy Lahiri, OB-GYN at a small, New York practice of which she seems to be the only female doctor. She seems to be the only romantic at the practice as well, a hopeless romantic, probably because she watched a lot of movies growing up, specifically romantic comedies. Yet, she's not a total sap. Perhaps, at first she was, but, after getting drunk and crashing the wedding at her dentist ex-boyfriend with whom she quickly fell in love and whom even more quickly dumped her, as well as crashing head-first into a swimming pool and hallucinating after drunk bicycling, some of her sap hardened.

But, she does want to meet someone and fall in love, so a lot of the talk and action involve Mindy's dating life, the dating life of a self-proclaimed, chubby 31-year-old. There are some funny moments that come between Kaling and her former NBC co-workers like Ed Helms (The Office) and Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live). Both of whom play potential boyfriends, but the true comedy hits from Kaling's co-star here, Chris Messina who plays Dr. Danny Castellano. Messina has done a wealth of small films and has had some good roles on cable TV series like Six Feet Under and The Newsroom and has proven himself to be fantastic in everything he does. Here, he proves himself yet again and shines as the perfect foil for Mindy's hyper, pop-culture idealism.

Mindy and Danny's relationship is what makes this show, and it's strangely become a formula that works extremely well for comedies that have a woman in the lead role. In 30 Rock, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin play two characters who are friends, but their friendship seems born mostly out of a rivalry. Often, it's a slight rivalry over whose ideology or political philosophy is correct. In Parks and Recreation, there is a similar rivalry between Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman's characters. They clash not only on ideologies but also work ethics, but no matter their clashes, they still wind up being there for each other as friends. One might assume there might be sexual tension but 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation work because theirs are truly male-female friendships, and that's it.

Mindy and Danny's friendship is selfsame. Because the two are closer in age than the central friendships on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, the probability of sexual tension is higher, but I'm hoping Kaling and her writers don't ever take it there. I hope the show learns from Fey and Poehler and keep Mindy and Danny platonic because, as it is, Mindy and Danny are fun.

They're fun when they're competing for patients in the first episode. They're fun when they're bickering like school children over job interviews. The best lines of dialogue are between Mindy and Danny in those situations. The energy and chemistry between the two are amazing and enjoyable. I want to watch them week-to-week. They're not as annoying as some traditional sitcom friendships are.

Kaling's character here is first and foremost not as annoying as Kelly Kapoor. More than that, there is a charm here that is so much more pronounced. Some might find it bothersome because she is movie-obsessed, but I find it endearing, probably because I'm movie-obsessed too. Some might not get the various references.

The one reference in the pilot that is the true test is when Mindy is going on her blind date. She wishes, "May he have the wealth of Michael Bloomberg, the personality of Jon Stewart, the face of Michael Fassbender... the penis of Michael Fassbender." Really, only cinephiles who saw the highly-overlooked Shame or viewers of the 2012 Golden Globes would get that joke. To those who did, this is the show for us.

The supporting cast includes Stephen Tobolowsky, Anna Camp, Ed Weeks, Amanda Setton and Ike Barinholtz. All of whom keep things very lively.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLS.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Airs Tuesdays at 9:30PM on FOX.


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