The Mindy Project: Pilot
Filled with sharp writing and self-deprecating humor, The Mindy Project is a perfect complement to its Tuesday companions New Girl and Ben and Kate, both of which are quirky comedies with heart that match “Mindy’s” sensibility. If you enjoyed Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, you will like her even more on The Mindy Project where she plays a more affable version of that character and is allowed to flex her talents as the show’s creator, head writer and star.
The comedienne plays Mindy Lahiri, a self-professed “chunky” 31-year-old OB/GYN who is way more successful in her professional life than her personal one. Raised on a steady diet of rom-coms, Mindy remains naively disappointed when her real life fails to follow suit. Let’s face it…what woman hasn’t fantasized about delivering Julia Roberts’ “I’m just a girl” soliloquy from Notting Hill to some erstwhile boyfriend while devoutly wishing for a fairy tale ending? The difference between us and Mindy? – She is convinced she is going to get it.
At first, it seems like she might get her wish when an encounter in an elevator with a cute doctor leads to love. After a disastrous break-up with said oral surgeon who dumps her unceremoniously for the Serbian bagel girl who works in the hospital lobby (and who may or may not be a war criminal,) Mindy dons a hideously tacky aqua sequined dress, proceeds to get rip-roaringly drunk, deliver an embarrassing toast and crash her bicycle into a pool where she hallucinates a conversation with a Barbie doll that taunts her lack of dating success. The incident also lands her in jail, albeit briefly, which fuels her determination to get her life together. This means no more hook-ups with hot British colleague Jeremy (Ed Weeks) and standing up to uninsured patients – both of which we expect her to fail at.
Mindy is bailed out of jail by friend Gwen who sets her up on a blind date, despite reservations that she is squandering one of only three decent guys she knows after deducing that Mindy’s life is more like a “sad documentary about a criminally insane spinster” than a romantic comedy. Things get off to a good start as Dennis (Ed Helms) seems charmed by Mindy’s not-so-subtle interrogation (“Oh, you work on Wall Street…you must have access to a lot of drugs,” as a thinly veiled way to tell if he is a drug addict,) but Mindy shows a more tangible wackiness when she has to rush off to tend to a patient and we get the distinct sense there will be no second date.
Adding to the comedic equation, she has a love/hate (minus the love part) relationship with her other co-worker Danny (Chris Messina.) Maybe his character will grow on us as the season progresses, but for now his abrasiveness makes him the show’s only weak link. His saving grace is that he is just as quick to compliment her on a good fashion choice as he is to callously tell her she needs to lose weight or that her glittery first-date ensemble would only appeal to Elton John on New Year’s Eve.
Mindy isn’t leading-lady beautiful; she is “relatable” (the industry’s buzzword for anyone who doesn’t fill Hollywood’s unattainable standards.) Audiences embraced Melissa McCarthy in Mike & Molly, so let’s hope Mindy meets the same fate. The writing is witty, and our intrepid heroine delivers her lines in a hilariously dismissive, deadpan manner, uttering politically incorrect bon mots with no sign of regret, such as when she confirms her receptionist’s assumption that she should find more white patients or when she tells Dennis that she’s a vegetarian who eats hamburgers but never steak. Ironically, Mindy admits she is too lazy to “Eat, Pray, Love” her way through life even though she offered this prayer before her blind date – “Dear Lord, please let this date be good. May he have the wealth of Mayor Bloomberg, the personality of Jon Stewart, the face of Michael Fassbender, the … penis of Michael Fassbender.”
Part of what makes Mindy so likeable is that she knows she’s a wreck. After slyly summoning Jeremy for a booty call to take her mind off her thwarted blind date, she tells Gwen “Tomorrow is going to be different. And if not tomorrow the next day, I swear.” We have faith that she will turn her life around even though we know it will take her a while and that we will delight in her stumbles along the way.