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Review: What’s Wrong With ‘The Mindy Project’

mindy project

What the show is lacking and why it’s not delivering the laughs

The Mindy Project hasn’t quite hit its stride with me. Admittedly, I had high expectations for this show given how I’ve been a fan of Mindy Kaling since The Office. I enjoyed her book “Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” and her long stint as writer and actress on the hit NBC show, which is now in its last season(Kelly Kapoor is one of my favorite characters from The Office.)

Her show on FOX is about a gynecologist trying to find love in the Big Apple, while also dealing with some colorful co-workers and various office shenanigans. The Pilot episode had the main character riding drunkenly around on a bicycle yelling “I’m Sandy Bullock!” before falling into someone’s backyard pool and getting promptly arrested thereafter…

So it definitely had potential. What went wrong exactly?

Characterization and Development

The character who has been given the most development is Mindy’s – the eponymous Mindy Lahiri – and (obvious) future love interest Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). The supporting characters show up, but we don’t know a whole lot about them, nor are we given any particular reason to care about them.

What do we know about Dr. Reed (Ed Weeks), for example, beyond the fact that he’s the classic playboy who can’t emotionally commit… and that he’s British? The character is loosely based on Hugh Grant’s character in Bridget Jones’s Diary – the movie inspiration for The Mindy Project. Sure, he’s featured on promotional posters, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything. Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) has gotten more characterization and screentime and he was recurring for most of the show. 

These supporting characters come across as really one-note, simple, and trite. None of them have solid relationships with each other, either. Did anyone mention or explain Shauna’s absence in the most recent episode (“Mindy’s Minute”)? No. That’s because these character’s relationships with each other don’t matter and are flimsy at best – despite 15 episodes having aired so far.

(Note: For anyone who was curious, the actress who played Shauna was booted off the show.)

The reason why New Girl works so well is because of the solid, well-developed relationships among the principal cast. They frequently interact with one another and the relationships aren’t built out of nothing. They’ve been given time to develop and the actor’s work off each other’s chemistry to build a dynamic.

Jess, Winston, Nick, and Schmidt aren’t bogged down by paper-thin characterization, either. The writers have crafted them into full-of-life, three-dimensional characters who are interesting to watch.

The only relationship we get to see develop on The Mindy Project is between Mindy and Danny – the only cast members who seem to have any semblance of chemistry (romantic or otherwise) – and it’s safe to say that those two are headed in a very predictable direction.

One thing I’m grateful for is that they aren’t nearly as cruel to each other as they were before, so they could work as a functional couple down the road – one that I might root for.

Pop Culture References

I love a good helping of pop culture references as much as the next person (this blog is dedicated to pop culture, after all), granted that I know what those pop culture references are referring to…

The problem with having so many pop culture references on a television show is that it doesn’t resonate with everyone who happens to be watching. Not everyone has seen When Harry Met Sally, for example, let alone know that Rob Reiner directed it and that his mother was the lady who said the iconic words, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Now imagine that joke being repeated a thousand times in any given half-hour episode. Obviously, I’m exaggerating here – but The Mindy Project does itself no favors by relying so heavily on pop culture-related jokes. It’s fine every once in a while, but don’t make it the mainstay of the show.

Now, I’m not saying The Mindy Project needs to dumb itself down or go for the cheap laughs. God knows I can’t take another 2 and a Half Men. But a sitcom can be clever and funny without stuffing so many pop culture references into a single script. Either that, or it needs to insert these pop culture references in better, more creative ways.

Community did it with My Dinner with Andre back in season 2. It’s an extreme example, and while the episode was a hit or a miss for most people, I personally thought it was handled really well. The episode demonstrated how you can take an obscure pop culture reference and make it into something consumable for a mass audience. Even if the audience had never even heard of My Dinner with Andre, it was obvious what was going on by the end of the episode.

It’s not to say that The Mindy Project hasn’t had some really good episodes or laugh-out-loud funny jokes, because there have been some. For example, there was a scene with rapper Common playing an Empire State Building security officer in a recent episode that I found hilarious, and I enjoyed the episode where Mindy asks Danny to be her gynecologist (though both of them are uncomfortable at the prospect, neither is willing to admit it to the other one). See: “Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist”, episode 5.

Ratings aren’t good, but I’ll continue to watch in the meantime. Word is that it’ll most likely get picked up for another season, but don’t hold your breath.

The Mindy Project airs Tuesday nights at 9:30/8:30 central on FOX.

Do you guys like the show? Comment below.