The Mindy Project was by far one of the most hyped-up comedy series premiering this fall which, while it may have had a positive effect on ratings, mostly contributed to the feeling of general average-ness I got from a show I really wanted to love right away. I think Mindy Kaling is funny and talented, and I’m glad she’s getting her chance to be in the spotlight, but the pilot fell short of my (admittedly high) expectations.
That’s not to say it won’t be good going forward. Pilots are usually a little awkward, and it’s doubtful to strike the perfect balance between introducing viewers to a brand new world filled with brand new characters while being entertaining in and of itself. The awkwardness of The Mindy Project’s pilot episode comes from trying to cram too much in too quickly. It was overwhelming more than anything else, but it was also a really entertaining half-hour comedy.
It starts off with a voiceover narration from Mindy herself as she reveals to us that she grew up completely obsessed with romantic comedies, an obsession she’s carried with her to her professional life as a present-day 31 year old OB/GYN. She has a Romantic Moment with Tom (guest star Bill Hader), an oral surgeon, when they’re stuck together in the elevator for twenty minutes after some cutesy file-dropping. Two months later, Mindy moved into his apartment. And here’s the first genuinely funny moment of the episode: Mindy’s monologue is interrupted by the police officer who’s just trying to get the story of what led to her arrest.
That part of the story turns out to be rather short: Tom dumped Mindy for the girl who served bagels at the hospital whose teeth he fixed, and she accepts the invitation to their wedding. At said wedding, Mindy plucks up some liquid courage in the form of four vodka sodas and makes a speech exposing Tom’s flaws to the guests and his new bride before running off with a bottle of champagne.
She then bikes away from the wedding drunk and crashes headlong into somebody’s pool, where a doll sitting on the bottom of the pool gives her an imaginary kick in the pants talk: Mindy needs to get her life together if she ever wants to A) not be this girl crashing into pools and B) get a boyfriend. Mindy was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and there’s a “rapist of the peace” joke that I’m not entirely comfortable with, and her friend Gwen comes to bail her out.
It’s at this moment that Mindy vows to get her personal life in order, especially when she compares herself to Gwen, who’s married with a young daughter at this point. That’s where rom-com-loving Mindy wants to be with her life. Where she is, though, is hooking up occasionally with Jeremy, her hot British coworker that she thinks she can fix, like a Hugh Grant character.
Mindy’s other coworker, Danny (who I guarantee people are already rooting to get together with Mindy), ends up delivering one of her patient’s babies while she’s rushing to the hospital in her disheveled sparkly dress. They bicker about him stealing her patient until they meet up with Jeremy in the doctor’s lounge. Jeremy maintains that he’s not addicted to sex, he’s addicted to attention. No wonder Gwen wants Mindy out of that relationship, yikes. Mindy even snaps a picture of him and texts it to Gwen with a reassurance that she walked away from another one of his offers.
Mindy’s assistant Betsy has set her up an appointment with a new patient. This woman is a non-English speaking, uninsured patient whose son acts as translator for her. At first Mindy refuses to take her on because without insurance it’s not the smart move for her, but she eventually concedes. She goes on to yell at her assistants Betsy and Shauna to be choosier about the patients they send in. Namely, Mindy wants more affluent white women who will actually be profitable for her. I actually think some social commentary on the healthcare situation in America could turn out to be an interesting dimension for the show to tackle, but we’ll have to see if it crops up again in other episodes or not.
Mindy then shows off the outfit she’s planning to wear on her blind date tonight, a flashy silver top with a blue skirt. Betsy and Shauna love it, but Danny lets her know it’s an outfit only other girls like. He then spouts off some typical “Cosmo polled 100 men”-style fashion advice, letting Mindy know that she’d be better off in something simpler with shoes she won’t complain about walking in and oh yeah, with losing 15 pounds. Mindy comes back with a quip about Danny’s ex-wife, which should be interesting backstory to work through later on in the show.
Jeremy (who, I’ll be honest, I was referring to as Hot Doctor in my head because I kept forgetting his name all episode) reassures Mindy that she looks beautiful and suggestively adds that he’ll be in his office. Cut to them making out on his desk, though Mindy sticks to her self-improvement guns and cuts it off early. She needs to give herself a chance at that romantic comedy, she says, and she hasn’t got a whole lot of time left to get it. She heads out of the office to go on her date, now in a simpler red dress per Danny’s advice. He tells her she looks nice as they grab the elevator together, though Mindy clearly didn’t want to admit she took his advice.
After praying in the cab for the perfect date, Mindy arrives at the restaurant to find perfectly respectable Dennis (Ed Helms). With The Office ending this season, I’m kind of hoping more of Kaling’s ex-castmates find their way onto her show in various roles. She and Ed Helms play off each other well as the blind date progresses about as well as a desperation-tinged blind date can go.
They’re interrupted by a call from Mindy’s new patient’s son—his mother is going into labor. Mindy blatantly tries to ignore the call so she can stay on her date, and I have to say, I like that about her character. It serves to make her character unlikable and to give her flaws, but honestly, that makes me like the character more. She’s not completely some rom-com archetype; she’s a real person with real flaws, coping with her problems in life.
She ends up rushing out on her date after a brief and awkward conversation about when they might or might not end up sleeping together, and she runs to the hospital barefoot to deliver this baby. She suits up for surgery in a fairly badass montage set to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” (love that song) and delivers the baby successfully. Clearly, Mindy has her job under control, even if she feels she’s struggling with everything else. After The Newsroom this summer, I was so thrilled to see a complex female character who has problems in her personal life but can still do great things in her profession. So, thank you for that, Mindy Kaling.
Mindy relaxes after the surgery with her millionth viewing of When Harry Met Sally, which Danny promptly begins to critique. He then asks her about her date, wondering if Dennis was a man who would do manly things like be brave in the face of possible home intruders and be someone to depend on when she was giving birth and be a guy who stands up for principles like not wearing a John Mellencamp shirt to a Springsteen concert and, well, now Danny’s just talking about himself. It’s an odd sort of moment because I think the show eventually wants to try a relationship between the two of them, but I can’t tell if that would be interesting or disastrous yet.
In any case, Danny compliments Mindy on her handling of that breech delivery and emergency C-section, which was a genuinely nice moment from him. Mindy takes this as a cue to open up about how she thinks she’s starting to make a little progress in her quest for self improvement, but Danny ends up just changing the TV channel to a fishing program instead of Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s love affair.
Mindy is hashing her whole night out with Gwen on the phone later when Jeremy shows up at the door for a clearly prearranged meeting. “Bad Girls” comes back on as Mindy insists to Gwen that she’s changing…starting tomorrow.
It’s hard for me to form an opinion of the whole show solely based on the pilot, but I think it definitely has the potential to become a really good half hour of comedy. I think Mindy plays this fictionalized version of herself well, and hopefully the show will allow for more focus to shift to the supporting cast of her coworkers and friends as time goes on. Overall, though, I’d say it’s a pretty decent start to the series.
Favorite Lines from “Pilot”
Mindy (about Tom): “God forbid you give away the end to Downton Abbey.” Danny: “What the hell is this show and why does everyone keep talking about it?”
Mindy: “Do you know how difficult it is for a chubby 31 year-old woman to go on a legit date with a guy who majored in Economics at Duke?” Dennis: “I never told you those things.” Mindy: “I looked it up online, okay? Relax.”
Mindy: “Maybe I’ll do one of those Eat, Pray, Love things. Ugh, I don’t want to pray. I’ll just die alone.”