‘The Mindy Project’ Is Still a Mess, Despite Small Improvements


At this point, close to the end of the second season, I can say that The Mindy Project is never going to be my favorite show. That’s fine: there are plenty of other sitcoms for me to love, and plenty of other people to love this particular sitcom. It’s hard to express my distaste for this show because it’s not terrible and I watch many programs that are much, much worse. The Mindy Project is fine. It was once bad but now it’s fine, as evidenced by last night’s double feature, “French Me, You Idiot” and “Indian BBW.” Both episodes were improvements, both had well-crafted jokes, both had a fun little story. Neither sold me on the show but neither made me turn off the television. Baby steps, I suppose.

The thing is, The Mindy Project is still a bit of a mess. For all of the first season, it had no idea what type of show it wanted to be. It went back and forth between a shoddy romantic comedy and a halfhearted workplace sitcom, leaning too far in one direction one episode and then doing a complete 180 the next. This isn’t to say that it can’t be both — I would very much prefer that it was both — but it hasn’t found a balance that feels right. The concept, the cast, and the characters sometimes change so much that it’s whiplash inducing. This goes for Mindy herself. I’m inclined to agree with HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall (who liked the episodes more than I did): “Some weeks, Mindy was a functional adult; in others, a borderline insane person who had somehow wrangled herself a medical degree.”

Don’t get me wrong: I am all for complicated characters, but that isn’t the case here. Mindy isn’t confusing because she’s complicated, she’s confusing because I don’t know what to make of her, and when I finally do, the show tells me that I’m wrong. Aside from that, The Mindy Project keeps bringing in new characters, some more annoying than the rest, before it has a chance to fully develop its established characters. I want to love everyone in the office, but the writing makes it hard to.

Despite my nitpicking, I can admit that last night’s two episodes were a very small step in the right direction. It’s still a mess, but it’s an organized mess. They were better than what the show has previously done and further proves that rom-coms are Mindy’s strong point — both Mindy the character and Mindy the actress/writer. Danny Castellano has always been one of the strongest characters on the show, one with actual depth and a set personality. The will they/won’t they vibe was set in place from the beginning but it wasn’t too overt. It was in the more subtle moments and the quick glances, a welcome change from the bigger, broader moments that make up The Mindy Project. I am not the most romantic person, but even I am unable to resist the charms of the Aaliyah dance.

That was the beginning of the beginning for these two, and it all came to a head in “The Desert” when he kissed her on the plane. Fast forward to “French Me, You Idiot,” which picks up immediately after that moment, and shippers ’round the world went wild. It was Mindy’s perfect rom-com moment and it felt real due to the chemistry between the two actors. The Mindy Project continues with the rom-com clichés: Cliff (Glenn Howerton) has realized that he’s still in love with Mindy and wants her back. Mindy accidentally ends up with both Cliff and Danny, and it actually works for the episode. The Mindy Project doesn’t want a show-killing love triangle, so it quickly gets rid of the whole thing — though not without a few obstacles. Mindy can’t break up with Cliff because he’s grieving the loss of his grandmother (we have definitely seen this storyline played out before, but Howerton’s “No person should ever have to bury a grandparent” line might be the first time I actually laughed at a joke on this show). But Cliff is cast aside, leaving The Mindy Project open for more relationship silliness.

That comes immediately in “Indian BBW” when Mindy’s sex tape with ex-boyfriend Tom pops up on the Internet. Then it doubles with both Mindy and Danny suffering from meningitis. This isn’t a plot that’s oozing with unbridled sexiness, but just two sick people — with an obvious attraction to each other — reading together in bed. It’s a comfort thing, which makes the whole transition from friends to lovers more realistic here (plus, as Danny mentions, their entire time as friends was basically foreplay).

All that said, The Mindy Project still isn’t great. I liked the rom-com aspect more than I thought I would, but it didn’t make any efforts to fix the core problems that exist. I could barely pay attention to the b-plot in “French Me, You Idiot” and still don’t know what to make of the rest of the people who populate the workplace. I want to say that there were plenty of out-of-character moments, but can I really claim that if I’m unsure of what these characters are supposed to be like? I doubt that it will learn to fix its cast of side characters and the overall inconsistencies that exist from episode to episode, or even from minute to minute, but honestly? I don’t think the show is concerned with any of that. It’s concerning itself with the romantic comedy, the relationship between Danny and Mindy. I’m sure that’s enough to keep the fans interested; I’m just not one of them.