Your New Favorite Show: The Mindy Project
2012 has been a banner year for smart, funny shows written by, produced by, and starring women. Among others we have Girls, Whitney (whose appeal, granted, is not universal; I happen to like it), and now The Mindy Project.
The Mindy Project is, uh… the project of Mindy Kaling (yeeahhh, that title… not so good.) Kaling is the multi-talented superstar who spent several seasons writing, producing, AND directing The Office, eventually joining the cast as Dunder-Mifflin customer service representative Kelly Kapoor. In TMP (that’s how I’m abbreviating it. Shut up.), Kaling plays Mindy Lahiri, a mid-30s OB/GYN in a small practice in New York. (The character’s occupation is inspired by Kaling’s mother, who is a real-life OB/GYN.) She is a competent professional at work, but a near-complete mess in her personal life. The show’s pilot episode has her attending the wedding of an ex-boyfriend, at which she gets drunk and makes a very inappropriate speech. Her character has more than a few first dates, mostly with relatively famous guest stars like Ed Helms.
She is beset at work by her two business partners, Dr. Castellano and Dr. Reed. Dr. Reed is a good-looking and impossibly charming Englishman with whom Mindy had a brief, ill-advised fling. Dr. Castellano is gruff, with little to no understanding of pop-culture, and has an extremely low tolerance for Mindy’s interpersonal neuroses. However, it quickly becomes obvious that Dr. Castellano will be the other half of Mindy’s ongoing will-they/won’t-they story arc. Despite the show telegraphing this fact fairly early on, they’ve done a good job with the pacing, humanizing Castellano just a little bit with each ridiculous scenario. The practice’s founding partner retires early in the season leaving Mindy and her colleagues the unenviable task of divvying up responsibilities.
Supporting characters include Mindy’s best friend (the blonde, suburbanite Gwen), two receptionists, Shauna and Betsy, and later a male nurse (played by MADtv and Eastbound & Down alum Ike Barinholtz.) Shauna is all Long Island, miniskirts n’ huge-earrings, while Betsy is sweet and cripplingly naïve but absolutely worships Mindy. Unfortunately, if the reports are to be believed it looks like Shauna’s character is to be eliminated altogether while Betsy will shift to a recurring (but not regular) role. Nurse Morgan is the show’s wildcard. He is clueless, weird, and hilarious; a man with a checkered past, a creepy sort of enthusiasm, zero shame, and a strangely comprehensive skill set. He’s all quirk, and yet is the one character who seems to have a pretty good idea of who he is.
The first season is not yet over, of course, so there’s more of Mindy’s story to be told. I just want everyone to get in this one on the ground floor. The show is whip-smart, endearing, and very, very funny featuring some episodes rife with LOL moments:
- Mindy wants to prove that she can still party and go clubbing with the younger Shauna and Betsy. (Gwen says, “I can’t do clubs anymore. They make me feel judged and rejected by people I would normally judge and reject.”) Betsy proceeds to get fall-down drunk while Morgan pretends to be a men’s room attendant for tip money.
- Mindy gets Castellano to be her new OB/GYN even though neither is at all comfortable with the idea. They engage in a little game of gynecological chicken to see who will back out first. (The back and forth oneupsmanship in this one is side-splittingly funny.)
- Mindy gets all worked up about her Halloween costume thanks to a desire to impress a new boyfriend (she lands on Diane from Cheers, while he goes as Iñigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.)
- And so on…
TMP’s fate is still TBD. The show hasn’t really garnered the kind of viewership that guarantees longevity. Yet. But the smart writing and strong presence of Kaling and her supporting cast is well worth your eyeballs. Maybe together we can get it to last a few good seasons.