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Monday, November 11, 2013

Who are you and what have you done with The Mindy Project?

I don't relish being a critic (what's the famous adage? "No statue has ever been erected to a critic"?) but occasionally I'll offer my two cents when I think something is whack and needs addressing. Not in a mean way, just in a this-is-my-opinion, take-it-or-leave-it way. I don't purport to have infallible beliefs or sensibilities; but I do think -- when it comes to storytelling -- I have a rather finely tuned bullsh*t detector.

So I'm gonna be a critic for a quick sec.

Enter The Mindy Project, a television program currently in its second season on Fox.

If you're unfamiliar with The Mindy Project, it began as a delightfully whimsical show starring the lovely and talented Mindy Kaling (of The Office and bestselling-memoir fame) that was more or less about one woman's search for love and self-actualization in New York City. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, the show ushered us alongside the eponymous heroine (a shallow but well-meaning gynecologist in a somewhat zany Ob/Gyn practice) as she endured failed dates, baby deliveries, fashion faux-pas, and more.

Season one was (in my opinion) beyond amazing. Laugh-out-loud funny. The characters were believable but unique: flawed, but always sympathetic. The dialogue was witty, but never at the expense of a character's arc. Mindy herself was insanely charming. I, like many other ladies I've spoken with, could picture myself in her shoes.

The cast, on the whole, was fantastic. After I forced my close friends and family to watch season one using my Hulu Plus login, all of them commented on how markedly outstanding the acting was -- particularly the performances by Chris Messina (as the sensitive but repressed Danny Castellano, M.D.), and Mark Duplass (as the self-righteous but hot Brendan Deslaurier) -- both movie actors who chose to do small screen in this case because Mindy Kaling is so talented and her writing is so fantastic (hell yes I scoured YouTube for interviews in which they said exactly that).

Bottom line: watching season one was like taking a class in awesome TV. Sure there were some problems (there were some cast changes, some of the plotting was out of order) but this is par for the course with a new show, right? At its core -- when all was said and done -- the show never compromised its standards of excellence for the sake of a cheap joke, and it always remained faithful to its characters.

Enter The Mindy Project, season two.

What happened? No, really though. What. Happened.

To me, the show is unrecognizable. The season two premiere was funny, yes, and gestured toward last year's greatness. But plummeted. If you happen to watch Mindy and feel like reading on for the sake of indulging me, here is a bullet point list of all the stuff that is driving me insane:

  • The show has become a revolving door for new characters. James Franco! That guy from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia! That guy from Mad Men (who is super weird on Mad Men but, okay fine, is actually really cute on Mindy)! Sure, in season one, Mindy went on a lot of dates, and there were a lot of guest stars, but not to this extent. I can't keep track of any of these people! Who are they? What are they doing? Where are they from? Another planet, that's where. Where everyone watches bad TV, and no guest-star contracts can last longer than two episodes.
  • Similarly, what's with the new doctor guy? I don't even remember his name because I blocked it out. His main character trait is "Says 'Bro' A Lot." He's not compelling, not that great an actor (sorry), and, to me, is like a watered-down version of Barney from How I Met Your Mother
  • Due to the above two points, the characters about whom I actually care are being woefully short-changed. It's like they're not even on the show anymore. Chris Messina makes the most of his paltry material (one scene, tops, each episode) and Mark Duplass isn't even on the show anymore. Ike Barinholtz, as male nurse Morgan Tukkers (also a star cast member throughout season one) is equally elusive. What happened? Writer's room ADHD? These are people we've grown to care about, and it feels super cheap to abandon their storylines in the service of stunt casting.
  • So many season one characters have been cut completely! Where are Mindy's friends? Where's her brother? The younger girl who lives in her building? Where is anyone or anything that gave Mindy a backstory? LITERALLY WHAT HAPPENED THOUGH?
  • Everything that made season one interesting and spelled "character development" for Mindy has been swept under the rug or straight-up discarded. Her engagement to Pastor Casey, as well as her mounting affection for Danny, were so well plotted and compelling to watch. Then, poof! It was all gone in the span of a couple episodes. Why? Why hit the reset button? Pastor Casey was a great character, but his demise (he decides to become a DJ, and then he and Mindy break up) was so far fetched and difficult to watch. Where are the season two arcs? Just as Mindy and Casey's relationship's development took a third of a season to play out, so should their breakup! Life takes time! Give it the dramatization it deserves! And Mindy's tension with Danny? It's as if none of their heart-pounding moments of connection ever happened in the first place. 
  • Fart jokes? Fart jokes. 
  • Dr. Jeremy Reed is totally different and totally annoying. He's unrecognizable! In season one he was the handsome, charismatic, cool, calm and collected member of the practice who hated confrontation and cared about little else than buttering up his patients and maintaining an untarnished reputation. This season? He's nagging, controlling, and antagonistic -- keeping everyone in line! -- and reminding the new, bro-y doctor that he needs to act more serious! Like, what? Also, they made him fat? Which I guess is a "character trait?" Except it's not and it's terrible and weird.
  • The "rivalry plot" has, at this point, played out ten million times and I'm sick of it. In season one, the Deslaurier brothers (holistic midwives who practice upstairs) served as hilarious rivals to the ob/gyn practice. Sure, the stakes were low, and they were basically innocuous, but it was a very realistic and compelling antagonism that spawned all kinds of interesting scenarios and plot developments. This season? See: revolving door casting. James Franco, the Always Sunny guy, the bro-y doc: they're all rivals who appear out of nowhere and shake things up! Except they don't do anything, and then they either leave the show or fade into the monotonous landscape of this strange, unfocused, and flailing show.
Wow. Kind of harsh, I know. 

Do I feel better? Honestly? No! Because I really love the show! And I love Mindy Kaling! I believe in her! I believe in The Mindy Project! I want it to succeed!

Sadly, what began as a believable show full of believable characters has turned into a farce. Because season two is so unrecognizable, I choose to believe, in my bruised and searching heart, that this is the work of some misguided "executive" or something, grappling for better ratings -- snatching the reins and forcing Mindy to make horrible creative decisions. Because I cannot believe Mindy herself would let this happen. I simply cannot!

Come back, Mindy! Come back!

Your (wounded, but still hopeful) fan,


  1. I haven't seen the Mindy Project, although I had kept it in the back of my mind to catch up on someday. (Side note, I love technology that I don't even have to necessarily watch a show while it is on, I can wait for it to be canceled and Netflix to pick it up) There seems to be a second season curse - as I felt this way about Glee. I thought the first season was great, and then the second season was unbearable and I quit watching. I'm afraid to start watching the second season of New Girl on Netflix because I am afraid it won't be as great as the first season…

    These are real problems. Real struggles. The pain is REAL.

    1. Haha! Totes. EXCEPT Season two of New Girl is AMAZING and maybe even better than the first season. Watch it immediately! And then let me know what you think! :-)