Sep 12, 2013

[TV] The Mindy Project: Season 1

In this post-The Office world that we live in, I find myself experimenting with a wide variety of sitcoms to see myself through the network seasons. There are some decently reliable ones like Modern Family and others that have not survived the battle like Partners. 

The Mindy Project was a weird entry since it featured longtime The Office writer and star Mindy Kaling (who left the show after its penultimate season) in a completely different situation. But in many ways, the show relies a lot on her new office ensemble, but still makes sure to put a bit more focus on her titular character.

Or maybe a lot of focus. But it works, I assure you.

Like all new shows, its first season is all about finding its true voice. The pilot pitch isn't necessarily what'll work for audiences and that's something you can only really find out once you go on air. And I'm catching up with this review this week since the second season premiere came a little early.

Synopsis: The Mindy Project is a comedy series created by Mindy Kaling for FOX. It won the 2012 Critics' Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series and was nominated for the 2012 People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy among several others.

The show centers around the life of obstetrician/gynecologist Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling). She's a single gal who was raised on romantic comedies - which probably describes many women in New York. And while she has a pretty successful career in a little clinic with several other particularly interesting doctors and such. That's where the ensemble part of this comedy series comes in.

The crew includes Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), a highly sarcastic doctor who seems to take particular pleasure in getting under Mindy's skin. There's Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks), who could probably pass as a model and is known to charm the ladies. Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz) is a male nurse with rather unusual methods. And there are the other staff at the clinic who round out the crazy crew.

Initially the show had a bit of a distraction in the form of Dr. Schulman (Stephen Tobolowsky), who initially ran the clinic but leaves the show before the season ends. I felt this was a good move since it brought more focus on Mindy and let her stories play out whether at work or in terms of her personal life.

It's hard to describe the humor of the show given how it shifts over the course of the season. At first Mindy was particularly oddball and off the wall - thus very much like her character in The Office. But soon enough she gets to rein things in a bit and she remains humorous without being crazy. At the very least she's certainly eccentric. I think the aspect of her character that could have been developed better was something from the pilot - the fact that she sees herself as someone who learned to believe in the kind of love found in romantic comedy movies. But this aspect to her personality, which honestly seems like a nice way to characterize her, isn't really stressed until later in the season. And by later I mean way later.

Her efforts at dating around do make for interesting storytelling as well. This is where the show shines initially as we watch her needy perfectionism (this is the best I can describe it) has her wanting to find Prince Charming on the first date. But her fundamental character flaws and her constant need to put her "best face forward" (which is ultimately not her) in order to somehow improve her chances at love. On paper these sound like tropes of many romantic comedies, but Mindy brings her particular flair to things to keep things interesting.

This is not an Indian American Sex and the City. This is a completely different experience.

The Mindy Project is a great new show that is certainly growing into its own skin. This first season isn't perfect, but I feel it shows a lot of promise, even if Mindy does seem just a little bit crazy at times. Then again, aren't we all a little crazy? This first season gets 3.5 insane dates Mindy goes on out of a possible 5.

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