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Go Ahead, Give "The Mindy Project" a Chance

By Sarah Carlson | TV Reviews | January 8, 2013 | Comments ()


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This week marks the return of some of our favorite TV shows ("Justified," "Girls") for new seasons. Well, most of us love "Justified"; we're divided on "Girls." Because I probably can't convince Lena Dunham detractors to tune into her sophomore season, let me try to implore the Pajiba readership in general to give another debated show a try: "The Mindy Project," which returns tonight on Fox.

Here are a few reasons:

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For the Way the Writers Regrouped
Mindy Kaling's creation was met with resistance from the beginning, largely thanks to her slightly caustic character Dr. Mindy Lahiri. But already she has evolved. Just as Jess (Zooey Deschanel) was toned down on "New Girl," Mindy has been slightly recalibrated to be less rude and more relatable. She is still flawed, and that's great -- who wants to watch a show about bland, practically perfect people? But I would argue she's a touch more lovable.

We've already seen some shifts, but the new year brings even bigger changes not only in the makeup of the cast but in the characters themselves. Stephen Tobolowsky is out as the elder statesman of the OBGYN practice; Amanda Setton (as office assistance Shauna) is leaving; Anna Camp has been bumped to a recurring role as Mindy's best friend, Gwen; Mary Grill is joining the cast in a recurring role as another friend of Mindy's; and crazy, pot-smoking nurse Beverly (Beth Grant) is becoming a series regular. The only downside to this shuffling is Camp's demotion, but although she is delightful, her character isn't. Even by removing some characters only to add others, Kaling and crew are tightening the cast -- getting rid of excess co-workers and honing in on Mindy's relationships.

Ed Weeks (Dr. Jeremy Reed) has been the biggest beneficiary of character changes. In the pilot, he was Mindy's sex buddy and not much else -- a pretty boy with nothing interesting to say. Now, there's still a touch of Zoolander to him, but he's off Mindy's radar and holding his own amid the office antics and playing well with the ditzy office assistant Betsy (Zoe Jarman). He's no longer a careless cad; he also is the guy willing to sing "La Bamba" on karaoke to enliven Mindy's Christmas party. Truly, all the characters are more lovable.

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For "The Office" and "SNL" guest stars
Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms and Bill Hader have all had roles (with Kemper stealing her scenes as Mindy's boyfriend's other/original woman) and more friends are scheduled to come around -- the first season is already set at 24 episodes. Even Seth Rogen is going to make an appearance next month.

For Ike Barinholtz
His ex-con male nurse (who lives with his grandmother and has a tattoo on his stomach that reads "No more stealing cars") Morgan Tookers is the most random and hilarious of the cast. The comedian actually started out as a writer and story editor, but Mindy wrote the role of Tookers for him. Think Andy Dwyer ("Parks and Recreation") plus Andy Botwin ("Weeds") -- a sweet and eccentric guy whose allusions to crazy past adventures are always unexpected.

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For Jay and Mark Duplass
The team of brothers and indie darlings joined the show for a recurring role as midwives in a holistic center that serves as competition for the practice. (Note: I am in no way commenting on the actual depiction of midwifery or the topic in general because A) I know nothing about having kids and B) I'm terrified of wading into this argument.) Previews for tonight's episode indicate that Mark's character, Brendan, may even be a love interest for the newly single Mindy. Perfect.

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For Chris Messina
If you don't like Chris Messina, you're in trouble. He's in everything. Just in 2012, he starred in "The Newsroom," "Damages," Argo, Ruby Sparks, Celeste & Jesse Forever and 28 Hotel Rooms. You can't escape that lopsided grin. Messina is great as the grumpy Dr. Danny Castellano, Mindy's part-time office adversary and sure to be future love interest. They've got chemistry, and I'm glad Messina has dedicated his busy little self to the role.

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For Mindy
She's smart, funny and talented. She both has it together and doesn't. She's normal, and we need more of that on TV.

Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • I don't like Mindy Kaling. I don't know what it is, but I've never liked her. Maybe it's because she shat on my hometown's hole-in-the-wall ice cream store. Maybe it's because her characters in every movie I've seen are shitty (written or acted, I don't know and I don't care). I don't like her. :|

    P.S. Luv-It is awesome. http://www.vegaschatter.com/st...

  • I keep trying to love it. I just...like it, I guess. I'm so glad to hear about Anna Camp though , because I love her in everything and think she deserves a bigger role in as many things as possible.

    But there's two things I can't stand at all, and it's funny that it's two things you like: the British guy and the male nurse. The British guy is completely useless in the show and the male nurse is horribly obnoxious and unfunny. And it says something that I can't even remember the names of their characters.

    However, I do like Mindy a lot. The actual person and the character. She's definitely growing on me, and I think I'll stick with the show a little longer just to see where she takes it.

    And for Chris Messina, who is super hot.

  • Julie

    Oh god I hate the male nurse so much. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

  • logan

    No.

  • Sorry, no can do. If I wanted to watch another female character whose supposed to be the epitome of a modern girl, with a great career, and a real life and people who love her, whine, flounder and spend all her energy in romantic mishaps eternally feeling unfulfilled and incomplete because she can't find a man, I would watch seasons 1-5 of Ally Mcbeal on Netflix while singing along to all my 5 year old niece's Taylor Swift albums.

    Hells Bells, at least Nell and Lucy Liu's characters were AWESOME on Ally. The Mindy Project is insipid in its premise, and I would sooner have group sex with Fish and Cage than support the continued subtext our television networks refuse to let go: that women are forever incomplete and somehow pathetic without a man.

  • John W

    The one knock I have against the Mindy Project is they're not taking advantage of Anna Camp. They need to use her more. She's supposed to be Mindy's best friend.

  • Slim

    Morgan the nurse is the best part of The Mindy Project. But if the Duplass midwives are back, they'll give him a run for his money.

  • John W

    I've commented before that I've been watching Mindy Project from the beginning and I think it's funnier than New Girl.

  • If the Duplass brothers are going to continue their stint on the show, I'll catch back up on it. Otherwise, the show has been Mindy being self-deprecating in the most obnoxious ways possible.

  • LL

    The Mindy show is pretty good. And ditto Ben & Kate, it's also enjoyable.

  • googergieger

    Cause I'm gay and don't have a life? I find that offensive! If that argument didn't work for getting me to start watching Sex in the City or The Ultimate Fighter, what on earth makes you think it'll work now?!

    Good day!

  • muertemaria

    Love the show. I really want it to succeed now that Happy Endings is going to be gone.

  • Xtacle Steve

    I've enjoyed the show the few times I've seen it and I like Kaling, but Jesus that intro song is the worst thing I've ever heard.

  • Patty O'Green

    Full Disclosure: I love that song. It manages to be ear-wormy and make me shimmy in my seat, but it doesn't get stuck in my head.

    Whatev Kev.

  • Blake

    Ben & Kate's is worse.

  • dizzylucy

    Yes! If I can't forward through it, I want to scream. It's so bad.

  • Lbeees

    I love The Mindy Project. "Welcome to the bathroom!"

  • Even Stevens

    I adore this show, I wish it was getting a bigger audience because I think everything you wrote up there is absolutely true. And Mindy herself is a great character, yes she is ridiculous sometimes, but like you said - who wants to watch bland, perfect people?

  • KatSings

    I loved her book, and I started watching the show before Sandy. After the hurricane, however, when I had lost weeks of episodes to my cable being out for most of a month, I just never caught back up. I now have a backlog of eps (still missing the chunk from post-Sandy) that I just never quite feel like watching. I feel like this is a show I will maybe marathon in the summer when I have time.

  • Blake

    Since you're giving out chances I suggest tuning in at 8:30 for Ben & Kate. Not only do you get the lovely Dakota Johnson, but Nat Faxon and Echo Kellum (who has a passing resemblance to Richard Ayoade and plays what seems like a more socially adjusted Maurice Moss).

    Plus Lucy Punch's BJ has had some Ron Swansonesque like moments.

    While not the most original premise it is definitely worth checking out and has gotten better with each episode.

  • Buhlebonga

    LOVE Ben and Kate. It's quirky and weird. Which I like in comedy. And it has NO laugh track. Which is awesome! And BJ is the best thing about the show. The best.

  • Rochelle

    Thanks for making this list. I really want Mindy Kaling to succeed.

  • dizzylucy

    I've been enjoying, I think it needed some time to work itself out. It's not one of my favorites, but I'll stick with it.

  • Enrique del Castillo

    "She’s smart, funny and talented. She both has it together and doesn’t. She’s normal"

    Sounds like the anti Liz Lemon and as a fan of 30 Rock that eventually dropped it because I got tired of Liz (and she was the only thing keeping me interested in the series since the rest of the cast was too annoying for me). I could give it a chance, but so far no station in my country (cable...normal TV is just awful) has picked the show yet.

  • Erin S

    I see what you mean, while Liz was always kind of "eh, it works out in the end!" at her job, we get to see Mindy doing good work as a doctor and dropping the silliness (at least temporarily) to get shit done and deliver babies. I hope you get to watch it soon, it's worth a shot!

  • Erin S

    Thank you, I love this show! I'll be the first to admit it has had a rough start, but knowing Mindy Kaling's other work (and LOVING her book,) I've been sticking with it and giving it time to improve before I give up. While it's not laugh-out-loud hilarious, the humor is charming and smart, and the characters are definitely more well-rounded than in the beginning. Also, Chris Messina. Duh.

  • poopnado

    I tried to like this show. I'm a huge Mindy Kaling fan. It is painfully bad. I hope she really does turn it around, but I won't be watching.

  • Tinkerville

    I felt exactly the same. Mindy's great and I have nothing against her, but despite repeated attempts to get into the show it's been grating at worst and just unfunny at best. I am rooting for her though.

  • Rob

    I feel just the opposite. I like everything else mentioned in the article, but don't find Mindy funny at all. I just can't see past Kelly from the Office.

  • Chris Messina is charming and awesome. That is all.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Yes, but I am sad to see Tobo go.

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