The Mindy Project – Pilot
If you don’t regularly watch the U.S. version of The Office then you’re probably not overly familiar with Mindy Kaling, as I wasn’t prior to watching this pilot. The simplest way that I can think to sum her up for you folks is thusly: essentially she is a female Aziz Ansari. Now before you start to cry racism I’m not simply saying this because of the color of her skin but because they share a rather specific comedy styling – a freaky fast delivery of off-beat observations in a highly energized, very highly pitched voice – and a love of the artist known only as M.I.A. (who coincidentally also shares a similar colored skin).
It’s essential that you know this going in because unlike most shows the star and concept of Mindy are very much the same thing. No-one ever calls the main character Mindy but as the title suggests this is very much her show and its style is very much a reflection of her personality; which as a non-fan is as much a compliment as it is a criticism.
So while Mindy may be the star the shows cast of supporting actors is an all-star list: Ed Helms, Jon Heder, Stephen Toblowsky, Richard Schiff and many more all show up, as do Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in a round about way (but more on this later). Unfortunately though none of these names are really able to make an impression beyond ‘Oh hey, cool’ because before they can the show has moved on to the next scene. The pace of the pilot is perversely enthralling: the character cutting from six to fourteen to med-school to love at first sight to happily ever after to desperation to prison and *inhales* that’s a summary of only about two minutes of the show.
Of course this isn’t actually an autobiographical show, no matter what the maddening title might suggest. The one main difference between the two Mindy’s – that is noticeable to someone who doesn’t personally know the woman all that well – is that this Mindy is a Doctor. Now this is not to say that the show is a medical drama on top of the comedy. No, the one patient that we do get is basically just skimmed over, Kaling introduced this concept for one reason and one reason only: there is nothing dreamier than a doctor.
Likethe Community pilot did John Hughes movies Mindy makes the most out of mixing, merging and occasionally subverting tropes taken straight from the Romantic Comedies the character so likes to watch between supervising births. Just as Community managed to make itself work as both a modern, mature and meta show while mimicking these movies closely Mindy tries to match a realistic depiction of a modern, independent woman’s struggles with the idealized romance that they surely all still secretly yearn for.
In this way and many others Mindy is very much like our own Offspring in terms of both setting and style, only cut and condensed down from an hour to twenty-two minutes. This move makes the show’s comedy seem a little insufferable and its characters illegitimate, too much rushed over in lieu of actually being laid out properly. This though could change over the course of a season or so, where the show will have time to stretch things out a little longer, but ironically I’m not sure if I have enough patience to wait that long to see.
I am intrigued though to know whether or not the show will maintain its style once the room starts scripting episodes, perhaps like they did The New Girl a tough crowd will temper the irritations and quirkiness of this pilot, keeping only the promising pieces behind. My worry though is that this cannot happen under the new title (the show was originally known as It’s Messy) because the one biggest drawback seems to be Mindy.