The Mindy Project Season 1 Review “Mindy’s Minute”

In the penultimate episode of season one of “The Mindy Project,” it was time for Mindy to cash in on her fifteen minutes of fame, if only for “Mindy’s Minute.” Hey, you gotta take your shot where you can, and it’s hard not to see this episode as a bit do or die, given the show’s still-uncertain future. Only one more show to convince the bigwigs that Mindy is worth keeping around. For what it’s worth, I personally think she is.

Though the show hasn’t quite hit its stride yet, the prognosis is positive. Some shows need time to get warmed up- look at the first season of “Seinfeld” again, if you don’t believe me. Or even Kaling’s first show, The Office,” which needed a little time to separate itself from the original BBC version.

The problem is, in today’s do or die atmosphere, things need to hit and hit big, or their days might be numbered. Shows don’t get the time to grow like they used to. If “The Mindy Project” gets clipped, this may well be it, although with a few shows getting second reprieves on another network, cancellation might not be the end of the road. You never know, someone like TBS could snap it up on the rebound.

What gives me pause, and makes me want to talk up the show a bit are the positives, not the negatives. Every freshman show has ripples in the river, you know? But I loved the two-part homage to romantic comedies, Harry & Sally and Harry & Mindy.” To me, that was when the show went from mildly diverting to one to watch. (Save maybe the highly amusing Mindy’s Brother,”– loved the rapping, and the brother was perfectly cast.) In fact, I thought that those two episodes were better than any rom-com I saw this year, other than the superb Silver Linings Playbook.”

What made them work was what a wonderful love-hate relationship you could tell Mindy herself had with the genre. It’s kind of like as if Girls was less of an indie film-style downer, but still honest and starry-eyed at the same time. Kaling’s show might be a bit more cartoonish than “Girls,” to be sure, but it’s also got heart. Girls is more about the broken heart than the good times- nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you want a little of the fun stuff. And Mindy is nothing if not fun and breezy, while still retaining an edge- no mean feat that.

Now, save your letters, Girls fans- I love that show, too, and I’m sure Kaling does as well, if having Allison Williams on her show was any indication. You can’t have the sweet without a little sour, you know? I think both shows get that ultimately, only “Girls” isn’t afraid to wallow a bit more, which is an equally necessary and needed element to a well-rounded show. Nothing wrong with a little drama. But what the shows definitely share is that their characters aren’t perfect. They all screw up, no matter who they are. They’re human, and they feel that way, even though they’re fictional, obviously. Not too shabby a quality to have.

I like Kaling’s self-effacing sense of humor. She’s not the least bit afraid to poke fun at herself, and does so frequently. On “Mindy’s Minute,” she starts out with a cab driver berating her, threatening to “drive into a pole” and telling her that her “voice is sharp, like a scimitar- but it also grates, like a rusty scimitar.” I laughed, and I don’t even know what the F a “scimitar” is- I had to look it up. I like things that make me laugh and think, and hey, maybe even learn something. (A scimitar is a curved sword. Thanks, internet- and thank you, Mindy Kaling!)

In the same scene- and mind you, this was still the pre-credits teaser- she did a Rowlf joke. Now that’s a girl I’d want to hang out with at a party. Or date, for that matter. Who says you can’t be cute and smart? I’ll take that over smoking hot and dumb as a stump any day of the week. Morgan’s right to be a bit smitten. (His delivery on the “sweet ass”-bit was spot-on, too.)

I also love that Mindy hires other smart, funny people to work with her. The Duplass Brothers are priceless on the show- how hilarious was that faux ad with Maria Menounos, aka Mindy’s “hair idol”? (Hell, even MM is more than meets the eye- did you know that she once wrestled for the WWE and defeated someone with two cracked ribs she got doing “Dancing at the Stars” at the same time? Or that she has a TV-centric podcast empire? Well, she does- and you thought she was just a pretty face with a room-clearing laugh…)

The show was mostly about how perfectly awful Mindy’s videos aimed at kids were, in which she appeared as a dog (based on the aforementioned Rowlf), and talked to a puppet spoting medical information. So bad, in fact, that the local new station wanted to hire her because she “scored a P-rating (which stood for ‘pity’) equal to that of a dog that was saved from the roof during Hurricane Katrina” and “no human has ever scored sad-dog numbers.” Her main competition for the segment? A cop who shot himself in the foot during Show & Tell at a local school. Now that’s funny.

Granted, she got a little too mean for her own good with the joke about her video being on “Tosh.0,” who called her his “Fat Loser of the Week.” Ouch. Nothing wrong with a few extra pounds, ladies. Hey, Morgan seems to like it. More than a few others do, too. For Christ’s sake, there are people on the internet and in the industry that think Jennifer Lawrence is fat! I mean, shoot me now if that girl is unattractive, because I don’t understand the world anymore.

Kaling made up for the extreme self-affacement with a brilliantly delivered joke about her flair for the drama.
Morgan: “Oh my God! You are born for TV news…how you’re always taking un-dramatic things and making them dramatic?”
Mindy: “I don’t do that.” (Looks directly at Morgan- and our– way.) “Or do I ?”

Love it. In a perfect world, Mindy Kaling would actually need a bodyguard named “D’Nell” to protect her from the adoring (and stalker-y) “crotcherazzi.” But you know what? I kind of like it that she’s a more low-key star. Girls like her and Lena Dunham should be the new standard. Who knows? Maybe with a little more success, they will be. One can only hope.