We’re Still Waiting For ‘The Mindy Project’ to Become Great
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. eastern on Fox. The season premiere is tonight, but you can watch it online sooner than that.
The Mindy Project premiered one year ago as a sitcom that attempted to bring a romcom to the small screen, focusing on Mindy Lahiri, an OB-GYN obsessed with romcoms. The show attempted to balance the screen time between Mindy’s personal life with her friends and paramours and the assorted weirdos and/or jerks with whom she shares an office. But as early as the third episode, changes were being made, and by the middle of the season, Anna Camp, Stephen Toblowsky, Tommy Dewey, and Amanda Setton were gone, and one character (Beverly) that they spent half of an episode getting rid of abruptly returned to stay. After that, friends from the outside world would pop up every so often claiming to be Mindy’s friends, but mostly we find ourselves following Mindy and the Shulman & Associates (still named as such despite Toblowsky being the retired Shulman in question) staff around LA masquerading as NYC, bumping into and getting into miscellaneous adventures with the cool, comedy-industry-approved guest star of the week. The tighter focus was a step in the right direction, and with each episode towards the season finale, the episodes seemed to get funnier and less weirdly convoluted and clunky, but still not to the level that a lot of us probably unfairly expected.
Two episodes into the second season finds the show continuing to mildly disappoint, when you consider that the writing staff consists of former employees of 30 Rock, Community, and The Office. One issue is that you’re too aware that you’re watching television based on some of the storylines, a symptom of hiring busy guest stars. Another is just a case of some of Mindy’s co-workers acting too insane without justifying it through uproariously funny lines. Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) was an excellent late addition to the show last year, and her guess on what Mindy’s name is is so absurd that it’s probably the funniest line in the premiere. But Ike Barinholtz’s Morgan has occasional fits of creepiness that just underlines the part of his backstory where it says he is an ex-con, which even ruins his impressive Bane impression. The character of Jeremy Reed was someone who was fairly interesting when the show started, a co-worker of Mindy’s that was also her fuck buddy, which added layers to both his and her characters. That relationship evaporated quickly however, as well as his apparent usefulness.
Mindy’s character is unsurprisingly well understood by everybody involved from the staff to the audience, and her relationship with Casey (Anders Holm), the contemporary, hip preacher has yielded more jokes than her early relationship with the meticulously cold blooded and also creepy Josh. Chris Messina’s Danny Castellano, an unrepentant New Yorker whose love for the Yankees is only usurped by The Boss, is also firmly defined, and the humor wrung out from his repressed, caustic, and old-fashioned behavior has only expanded over time. Of course Danny wouldn’t know what a search engine is, and naturally he would find a way to bash Fenway Park given the smallest of opportunities. His struggles with Eye Patch (Alison Williams) and his ex-wife (Chloe Sevigny) have been comedically fruitful, because Danny is well-meaning but woefully out of step and clearly emotionally damaged. Danny is never the butt of the joke though, since his cynicism and sarcasm keep him grounded while virtually everybody else speaks their one-liners from their own respective planets.
The flirtation that concluded season one between Mindy and Danny is not at the forefront in the opening installments of this season, but it definitely isn’t forgotten about either. Even though Mindy Kaling denied that the two characters getting together is an inevitable thing, it certainly seems to be where The Mindy Project is heading. When their popular lead-in New Girl brought Nick and Jess together in the middle of their second season, it catapulted an already artistically thriving show into the legitimate must-watch-live stratosphere. It seems at the moment that any fears of that show collapsing under the weight of the new relationship were unfounded, but that was because Winston/Schmidt B plots can exist and be funny independently from the Nick/Jess circus, and the reactions from the loft and Cece were almost as anticipated as the initial kiss. If Mindy chooses to go down this path and honor the initial and kind of still romantic comedy concept of the whole series by getting those polar opposites that initially hated each other together, a big part of its comedic success will have to deal with how interested we’ll be in how it will affect the Schulman & Associates ecosystem. It’s certainly possible that with the show’s willingness to retool on the fly that a Mindy/Danny (Mandy?) coupling would supercharge a then already solid universe by this mid-season. There’s a terrific, subversive comedy hidden somewhere here.