The Mindy Project Series Premiere Review: Shiny, Happy People

The Mindy Project S01E01: "Pilot"

In the 1950s, women had very few options and were culturally expected to feel like failures if they didn't get married. Today, women can become doctors, astronauts, professors, politicians, and are culturally expected to feel like failures if they don't get married.

Or maybe just TV characters think that? Strong female leads have to either be in love with rutting fresh meat or obsessed with finding "the one" who will walk hot soup to them through the pouring rain or whatever. Mindy Lahiri's kind of a little column A but mostly column B. She's always loved rom-coms and she's waiting for a rom-com to happen to her in real life like ALL YOU LADIES OUT THERE IN TVLAND. OH YES that's what it's all about, right ladies?! Is this not the brutal ennui that stalks your lives, having to impose some four-act arc onto the soul-murdering flesh-market that is modern intimacy to feel like it's all real and not just random?!

I always romanticized stuff like Nancy Spungen's love story/mmmmmmaybe-murder-suicide so don't look at me. I can't really 100 percent relate to this show in that I'm not rom-com-obsessed and getting married isn't a foremost concern for me because I got married (and it's great! I still worry about being a failure, though, so watch out for that, singletons!). But I recognize the rage of worthwhile women who feel like they're incomplete until someone puts on a ring on it, while concurrently understanding that they are complete entities who are waaaay above that trope. And yet the relatively brief child-bearing window forces us ladies into a biological-clock situation and, as The Mindy Project points out, we're culturally indoctrinated to zzzzzzzzz.

Okay look: Was this show funny? Often it had very funny moments. Visually interesting moments, like a well-animated conversation with a Barbie doll at the bottom of a pool. As she's proved with eight years of kicking ass on The Office, Mindy Kaling is more than capable of cutting glass, and the first ten minutes of The Mindy Project were cinematic and carefully planned to hit like a perfect gymnastic landing. The entire episode was gorgeous, with a nice amount of edge, and it felt like a rom-com: great music, great production value, great acting. A woefully single OB/GYN made a mean toast at her ex's wedding to another woman, biked into a pool, and wound up in jail... and then we followed her through the next day, learning that she's a little torn between a hot and prickly divorced resident who she's Destined to Be With and a hot British resident who she wants to have sex with. Plus very actually funny moments with date humor! Plus she delivers babies for free for pregnant immigrants! What's wrong with this?

Nothing is wrong with this. It's better than average. If you are angrily single you will watch this and cheer. If you're a guy and that sounds too chick-y to you, you will probably still laugh at some moments. If you're a young woman who looks forward to being a wealthy, privileged, beautiful woman who's sulkily dissatisfied with her life well into her thirties, here's your Life Porn!

If you're looking for a moment of genuine connection, if you're looking for the humanity in the midst of the humor, like, you're not going to find it. It's not that kind of show. Maybe I need to stop comparing everything to Louie but this show is not honest in that way. ITS PERFORMATIVE! A show being performative, imagine that! How dare it! That’s a criticism of something that might not bother anyone but me... but it does bother me. Oh man, it bothers me so much!

The women I know who honestly hate being single and silently grieve their unborn kids and find themselves succeeding in their careers yet seriously consider adopting... they are not flip about this stuff, you know? And maybe they would connect with this very deeply and say, "Thank you, Mindy Kaling, for raising our voices to the TV-viewing public with a lighthearted twist!" but there is no sense of failure or rawness or revelation or risk, really. Even when Mindy the character is broken down in her prison cell she's lookin' great and being hilarious. If you don't have a problem with that, and you probably don't, enjoy. But if you're going to take on a legitimate concern that does seem to shake the souls of half the world, and if your main character is continually confronted with being alone by dealing with expecting moms and yet is still so romantic she watches rom-coms in the doctor's waiting room on a loop... there's room to get a little darker? A little grittier? A little sadder—just to make the humor pop more?

For a premiere, it was great! This show is slick. It's glossy. It has a big shiny fence up. There's a beautiful, haunted palace behind that fence. I hope we see it.


– How did you like The Mindy Project?

– Will you watch the next episode?

– Do you think it could have gotten "more real" or is that crazy talk?

– Do you know what I mean, though? It just didn't feel vulnerable?

– Do comedies need to be vulnerable?

– Do you think the concept of "truth in comedy" is an alternative-saddies '90s conceit?

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