Before this review begins, let’s take a moment to appreciate how awesome Mindy Kaling, the writer and star of The Mindy Project, is. She wrote some of the sharpest episodes of the American version of The Office, and her character, the ditsy customer service rep Kelly Kapour, was one of the funniest on the show. Her book, a collection of essays called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), is hilarious and expresses some rarely heard but widely thought opinions on pop culture and being a grown-up lady, with a grown-up job and everything, who still cries when listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue album.
So her show, set in a gynecologist’s office, should be the most important, wittiest and most insightful situation comedy in the history of broadcast television. And many times, the show is great, but it needs a push to live up to its potential. (Apparently, Fox felt the same way. This month, the network announced that The Mindy Project would be taking a mid-season hiatus and returning in the spring of 2014). Kaling sets up The Mindy Project to be a thinking girl’s Sex and the City, but for that to work, she needs to cement the series’ characters. There’s an obvious will-they-or-won’t-they tension between Kaling’s character Mindy and the other doctor in her office, Danny Castellano, played by Chris Messina. But the show forces that tension down the audience’s throats without any real build up. Kaling is perhaps taking notes from the romantic drama on her former show, The Office, but the Jim and Pam story developed over three seasons. The Mindy Project isn’t through its second season yet, and there just haven’t been enough episodes to develop the kind of back story that would make viewers care what happens between Mindy and Danny.
But The Mindy Project has enough golden moments to make it worth sitting through its growing pains. The show is at its best when it’s silly. A date of Mindy claims that he spotted a pregnant mermaid. James Franco guest stars as a sex therapist and utters the line “the ear is the clitoris of the head.” Tamra, one of the office’s nurses, can’t shave her legs in her bathroom because her boyfriend turned it into a recording studio. Danny’s brother has a pet turtle named Shelley Long. The goofy pop culture references and weirdo date stories will be the show’s saving grace.