Ok, it’s kind of a…roller coaster ride.
The Mindy Project introduces us to Dr. Mindy Lahiri, an OBGYN who loves romantic comedies and is searching for love in her own life. She’s emotionally torn between the sort of relationship she wants—the kind that produces tons of cute kids—and the kind that’s readily available—hooking up with a handsome coworker named Jeremy.
Mindy knows that sleeping with Jeremy isn’t getting her closer to the kind of relationship she really wants, despite protesting to her disapproving friend Gwen that she thinks Jeremy is Hugh Grant in About a Boy. Gwen retorts that she thinks he’s Hugh Grant in real life, and Mindy seems to agree; she’s no more interested in a serious relationship with Jeremy than he is with her. But he’s just so handsome, and besides, she can’t even make it through a blind date with a promising guy (Employed! Not wearing skinny jeans!) before being called into work for a delivery.
The show was going to be called, “It’s Messy,” and reviews are making much of the theme of messiness, describing Dr. Mindy as something of a wreck. I don’t think that’s quite right. Sure, her work-life balance is imperfect, and she doesn’t have all the right patients, but that makes her a young doctor, not a mess (and yeah, she did get arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, but that was a one time thing). And we’re assured that she’s good at her job when she ditches her thong for serious underwear, wipes off her lipstick, and puts on thick glasses, the legit attire for performing a C-section. She’s not a disaster, just complicated enough to be fun to watch—unless of course the themes of looking for love end up feeling tired.
This pilot has a lot going on, trying to give us Mindy’s backstory and introduce us to a large cast. The episode itself feels messier than the main character; so let’s hope the show’s execution gets tighter so we can enjoy watching Mindy’s search for love and balance.
You chose a very appropriate title for this first post! The quote from Ed Helms’ character really captures the essence of The Mindy Project pilot – namely, there’s a lot going on. What I took away from the first glimpse of this new comedy is that there is a lot of potential, but they are going to have to reign in the multitude of plot lines. The pilot touches on an abundance of interesting themes that likely will be explored further as the series takes off, but hopefully not all at once as they are presented in this first episode. It is worth noting, however, that the frenetic pace of the pilot might accurately reflect what it is like to be a young professional trying to keep lots of balls in the air at once and have it all. I’ll take my own advice here and highlight a few interesting show themes rather than recapping an overwhelming number of potential plot lines:
- Race, weight, and “womanhood” – has anyone talked about how Mindy Kaling is not the conventional Hollywood female lead? This seems to be the predominant narrative among critics, and from the pilot it appears that the show is not going to shy away from these topics. There were no fewer than three references to Mindy’s weight in the first episode. Some were self-referential (“I’m not like Precious or anything”) while others were outright insults (“You know what would look great – if you lost 15 pounds), but none were presented in a confident “I’m comfortable with my body” way. Likewise, there were several race-related jokes – the need for more white patients, the Serbian bagel girl being a war criminal, and Mindy not knowing what to wear because “she didn’t grow up in this country” (though she clearly did).
- The show presents an interesting dichotomy of what married life could look like through two of the supporting characters. On one hand, Mindy’s best friend Gwen (Anna Camp) is presented as a happily married, put-together, and stable mother who calmly sips coffee and doles out sage advice while an exasperated Mindy relates her latest relationship drama. On the other side, her colleague Danny (Chris Messina) is a young divorcé with a seemingly more bitter (realistic?) worldview. Since a focal point of the show is going to be Mindy’s relationship status, it will be interesting to see how these characters influence her quest for love and work-life balance.
- The American health care system – there’s a lot of potential here and the show scratches the surface showing Mindy rushing through the city streets hoping to get to the hospital in time to deliver an insured baby, but refusing to take a call during dinner from an uninsured patient. Later during an exchange between Mindy and the earnest receptionist, Betsy (Zoe Jarman), Mindy expresses frustration about her lack of insured patients, to which Betsy makes a note that she needs “More White patients. Done!”
It’s also worth noting that the supporting cast has several interesting characters that rendered cameos by Ed Helms and Bill Hader forgettable. I liked the dynamic that the show is setting up between Mindy and the receptionist Betsy and Mindy and her boss Marc (Stephen Tobolowsky). Gwen and Jeremy come across as pretty one-dimensional in this episode, but I have hope that as we learn more about them they will become more intriguing. My favorite character thus far is Mindy’s co-worker Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), who matches her quick wit and humor and the two play off each other well. Anyone who gets into a fistfight with someone at a Springsteen show (not concert) for wearing a Mellencamp t-shirt is okay in my book. Unfortunately, the pilot lays the groundwork for the worn out “will they/won’t they” get together storyline, which could destroy this promising chemistry.