“The Mindy Project”
- Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m.
After I watched the pilot for FOX’s new comedy “The Mindy Project,” I had only one question. It wasn’t whether the pilot would deliver on its promise (although I certainly hope it will), if it could continue booking such high-profile guest stars (showrunner and star Mindy Kaling recently tweeted about the signing of three NBA players, following a pilot with Bill Hader and Ed Helms), or even which of the two leads Mindy (the character) will end up with. My question was this: how in the name of Chandler Bing, Michael Scott and Liz Lemon did NBC pass on this?
It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a pilot for a show. Maybe it was the fact that the previews weren’t that funny, or sometimes devoid of any jokes at all, but I was worried about Kaling’s solo venture. Her character on “The Office,” Kelly Kapoor, was always my favorite, and her book was a fabulous read that remains on my desk to this day, so I knew she had talent. We even selected her for our list of the Top Celebrities on Twitter. But after NBC passed on the pilot and it went to FOX instead, where it would be a part of a comedy family including “New Girl” and “Glee,” two of the quirkiest/campiest/disastrous shows on television.
“The Mindy Project” is a show about Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN who spent most of her childhood and college career watching romantic comedies. She’s a brilliant doctor, but her love life is in tatters, precisely because of her romantic comedy obsession. Witness Mindy in the elevator, realizing that she is in a situation that most rom com heroines find themselves in. Rather than just go with it, she mumbles about how much it is like the movies. I can’t say I haven’t done the same, but it’s easy to see why she’s still single in her thirties.
Kaling is pitch-perfect as Mindy, perhaps not only because she is so much like her protagonist but also because of her impeccable comedic timing. She’s better than Tina Fey was at the beginning of “30 Rock,” praise I do not hand out lightly. Kaling’s voice really shines in the writing of the show as well, such as when Mindy almost gets hit by a driver while drunk cycling in the road and she cries out, “Racist,” or her constant references to basically being Sandra Bullock. At one point, a Barbie comes to life to sass her. Fair warning, though: you might find her voice to be a little too cute sometimes, but I was prepared for this because of her book. She doesn’t save all the good lines for herself, either, with both of her main love interests (played by Chris Messina and Ed Weeks) getting in on the snarky and sharp dialogue. The only weak point in the ensemble for me was Zoe Jarman (“Huge”), who seemed to be playing the exact same role as Jennifer Hall in “Up All Night” as the socially awkward and inept assistant to a much lesser effect.
I liked the show so much that I found myself upset at FOX for releasing the pilot so early—rather than waiting a week for the next episode, I have to wait until it premieres on Sept. 25. It was a wise move by FOX, who has played all its cards right with this show, especially in contrast to NBC. It appears that “The Mindy Project” is the debut of a great television voice. Let’s hope that Kaling and her writers can live up to their clever and effective pilot.