If you are anything like me, when your first notes on reviewing a show consist of “When Harry Met Sally references! Cat Calender! Bill Hader as a romantic interest!” you know you’re in for some kind of candy-coated tv viewing treat.
The Mindy Project is poised for a pop-culture takeover; we’re heading into the last season of 30 Rock, Parks And Recreation is great but essentially an ensemble comedy, and as much as we love Girls it’s not the fluffy escapism that sitcoms usually provide. Though The Mindy Project has been heavily promoted as the accompaniment to Fox’s New Girl programming, I’ve seen roughly half the first season of New Girl and couldn’t tell you what was so great about it.
I can tell you what’s so great about Mindy. It’s celebrating of women, in their flaws and insecurities, without ever being too tacky (though it is tacky). It’s lighthearted, sometimes leaning towards trashy, but it has some black-as-coal comedic truths in its one-liners.
“Maybe I won’t get married, you know. Maybe I’ll do one of those Eat, Pray, Love things. Ugh, no. I don’t want to pray. Forget it. I’ll just die alone”, Mindy says what we’ve probably all thought at some point after that last terrible date.
The show works best like New Girl; it places its main character as inseparable from the actor. Unlike New Girl, its actor/character’s main qualities are not being ‘quirky’, ‘super-girly’ (and therefore ‘super-needy/clingy’) and ‘nerdy’; notice all those terms are presented within New Girl‘s universe as flaws. Those familiar with Kaling probably know her from her role as manically magical Kelly Kapoor in The Office, from her comedy writings, or her memoir Are All My Friends Hanging Out Without Me?, an almost-perfect followup read to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (they’ve also both penned pieces for The New Yorker). Of course there’s going to be an abundance of comparisons between Kaling and Fey; they plan smart, career driven women whose personal lives serve as their ultimate mishap and provide the crux of the comedy. And they’ve both come from backgrounds in writing, not starring in comedies.
As someone who asks “What Would Lemon Do?” far too often, I’m more than happy to fill that empty place in my heart once 30 Rock finishes, though I’m hesitant to label Mindy as the new Liz Lemon. They both have that charm, that likeability that manages to transcend their source material, and can play the ugly/pretty card with ease. But while Liz Lemon is, at heart, the part of us that is happiest not having to try to be anybody, Mindy is that side of us that constantly tries to reinvent and better ourself, to varying success. “Who I have been is not who I’m going to be”, she declares, like many of us have after an humbling turn of events brought on by binge-drinking.
The Mindy Project is very much a sitcom at heart, so we have a rotating cast of supporting characters I wasn’t always interested in; a receptionist that I remember from Gossip Girl back in the day and Mindy’s annoying assistant could easily be sidelined, as could the banter between Mindy and her BFF Gwen that seems like it will be the same conversation every episode. But Mindy also takes risks, including surreal elements like a talking (total bitch) barbie, some truly wacky one-liners and some lady-faves music like M.I.A. and Le Tigre. For a pilot, the writing struck a good balance between introducing normality and having some fun; sequins included, of course.
Though it’s certainly not the most intelligent show slated for the new season of releases, and there’s a lot of development to go with the supporting characters (plenty of celebrity guests like Ed Helms helped fill out the pilot instead), I’m more than willing to give it a go. We need more women on T.V. who are not just funny and pretty but fallible and induvidual, more women who are not just shown to have a job but are actually shown being good at doing it. I think it’s best to conclude this review the way I concluded my note-taking: “Mindy, be my best friend please”.
You can watch The Mindy Project here for free until September 10th.