Around the Water Cooler: “The Mindy Project” – The Season 3 Finale and Mini-Season Recap and the Big Change (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “The Mindy Project” aired on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:30 PM during the 2014-2015 season.  It was canceled by Fox following this season, but streaming service Hulu picked it up and plans to continue the series.

What: “The Mindy Project,” a situation comedy about a thirtysomething, Indian gynecologist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), who is looking for love and life fulfillment, despite being a unique personality with a curvy body type and despite the fact that she works in an OB/GYN office filled with other unique personalities (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/mindy_project_the/summary.html).

When: The Season 3 finale aired on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, on FOX at 9:30 PM.

Where: The show is set in New York City (Manhattan specifically), primarily in the OB/GYN office in which Mindy works.

Why: I think Mindy Kaling (formerly Kelly Kapoor on The Office) is one of the funniest contemporary writer/performers.  She’s got a unique sense of humor and line delivery that makes her somewhat easy to relate to and yet awkwardly off-putting all at the same time, and this quality elicits the laughter, at least for this viewer.  Also, this program seems to be the Bridget Jones equivalent of the 20teens, and since I’m America’s answer to Bridget Jones, I had to check it out.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Ah, Mindy.  She could be the plus-sized version of the so-called “Manic Pixie Girl” if it weren’t for the fact that she is plus-sized.  It’s because she is plus-sized and probably almost too confident about it that makes her so appealing.

Is she a role model for the ages?  Perhaps, when all of the math is said and done, the numbers crunched, and the sociological impact of one little sitcom measured for all of its marginal effect on the landscape, the answer is no.  She’s angered many a feminist group, lately, which could be good or bad, with her scattered and somewhat shallow outlook on the world.  Mindy is a project.  Funny – that’s the name of the show, right?

Mindy is funny, though, because she’s a mess.  She’s funny because she’s me.  Slightly younger.  Shorter.  A bit thinner but not much.  Slightly more Indian (just kidding, she’s quite a bit more Indian).  Slightly more of a doctor.  Slightly way way way more into vacuous pop culture icons – I can’t even name half the pop acts she enjoys.  Her taste in men and her general approach to life, much of which is reactive to a combination of the crazy situations in which she finds herself and her very own crazy, is very similar to my own.  I have quite a few less cute boys (douche bags or not) in close proximity.  The long and short of it is, I can relate to her.  Are we very similar?  Not in so many ways, but there are aspects of this thirtysomething woman of a certain type that resonate strongly with this thirtysomething viewer of a certain type.  As a result, I probably find this sitcom funnier than most.

Yet, Mindy’s mess is only funny in self-contained doses.  The framework of this show, The Mindy Project, works the best when it blends Mindy’s self-discovery with the antics of her office mates (Morgan, played by Ike Barinholtz, chief among them) and the romantic comedy on which she bases her shallow, if self-fulfilling, philosophy.

In the second season of Mindy, that balance was much more omnipresent.  Ever on the ratings bubble, however, the show’s writers and producers – Mindy’s alter ego Mindy Kaling at the head – threw everything they had at the episodes up to and including the season finale.  They capitalized on the growing chemistry between Mindy and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) and moved them toward being a couple, possibly much sooner than most sitcoms might elect to simmer such juicy potential.  As a result, season three, with no other possible direction to go, ventured steeply into romcom territory, with Mindy’s own Meg Ryan-like story playing out before her eyes.

Because the show settled into a romantic comedy type rhythm, there’s really not much to recap overall.  The entire season was about Mindy and Danny’s struggle to co-exist as a couple.  After all, they’re two very different people. Danny’s strict Catholic upbringing came steeply into play, particularly with the brilliant casting of Rhea Perlman as his mother.  Never a more perfect casting choice could there have been; her Castellano matriarch Annette was a bit more insane than Carla Tortelli of Cheers fame, but that Carla spark – or that essence of Rhea – was present just enough and matched perfectly to Messina’s Danny.  Every time she was on screen, whether interacting with Danny, Mindy, or her best friend Dot (Jenny O’Hara), she stole the show.  I hope they find a way to enlist Rhea Perlman to be a series regular because she added so much to the dynamic.  It was great.  Also, for those keeping track, Dan Hedaya plays Danny’s dad Alan, who also played Carla’s first husband Nick Tortelli on Cheers. 

In the meantime, the characters of Mindy and Danny struggled to decide on living quarters, with Danny reluctantly acquiescing to Mindy’s gradual attempt to consolidate their living spaces by moving her belongings into his apartment, no matter how much he tried to send her belongings back with her, in her suitcase.  Mindy and Danny struggled to have a sex life uninterrupted by Peter (Adam Pally), once he moved into the empty condo owned by Danny next door.  Mindy and Danny struggled to work together, with Dr. Jeremy (Ed Weeks) attempting to call the shots as head of the OB/GYN practice in which they work.  Mindy and Danny struggled when Mindy decided to accept a fellowship in California, resulting in a long distance relationship (but for the fact that they’re doctors and can drop bank on plane tickets at will).

The entire season was about Mindy and Danny finding their footing, while Danny reconciled his rather conservative upbringing with Mindy’s footloose and fancy-free – and not exactly White, which became important more often than was comfortable – ways. Season three culminated in the BIG QUESTION.  Would Danny ask Mindy to marry him?  It was, again, Bridget Jones in its way, or When Harry Met Sally, or any of the standard Meg Ryan led fare.  By the end of the season, Danny seemed to have decided “yes” and flew all the way to India to ask Mindy’s parents for her hand; their answer is as yet unknown, and that’s the big cliffhanger facing season four.

On the strength of the writing and performances, The Mindy Project retained its sassy, somewhat satirical view of life for someone that fits Mindy’s type.  The jokes flowed freely, and this cast works well as an ensemble, adding Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) into the mix.  Still, there is a sense, after viewing season three, that the show’s producers devoted all of their energy to building up to that fantastic finale at the end of season two to stave off cancellation by Fox, only to run into the same problem at the end of season three and not have built up enough steam and/or story ideas to convince the most fickle of networks to continue its run.  Need we list all of the series that Fox has canceled for much less?

Thus, in the end, it’s not surprising that The Mindy Project was ultimately canceled by Fox because, in some ways, it used up its best stuff too early.  Also, the show is not one likely to garner newer viewers without some stronger gimmick.  It is what it is – it’s a show about a slightly insane if all too familiar (and easy to relate to) woman of a certain age and type, and it’s a romantic comedy centered on an odd couple.  I like it, and I will watch it until it finally ends, but it has its niche.

This is not to say that this viewer is not highly ecstatic by the news that streaming service Hulu picked up the show to continue its production as original streaming content.  In fact, this move away from a prime time slot on one of the big five networks might actually infuse this program with new energy as it moves into its fourth season. Mindy Kaling has already hinted at the idea that they might try to “get away” with more elements from a humor perspective, without losing the core of the show.  Still, there is no doubt that the show could probably use it.  What if Mindy and Danny do get married? Will the program then veer into their off-kilter marriage – I mean, they’re not exactly Bones and Booth, so could this concept sustain long-term?  In fact, so much of the focus was on them as two rather than Mindy as one, or even the office as a whole, this year.  The Mindy Project needs to recapture the balance that season two brought to the table.  It might also help for the season to work toward a larger goal without serializing the episodes too drastically.  That sense of focus truly helped to ground season two in a workable and ultimately fantastic way.

As I have opined before, several times in this entry in fact, The Mindy Project may be the Bridget Jones’ Diary of the 2010s, but the fact that Mindy is nothing short of a mess when closely observed and analyzed, and Danny is a character just a bit less messy, makes for some truly funny comedy.  While season two felt less formulaic, season three dove head first into formula, foregoing previous deft, if slightly subtle, nods to the films that inform Mindy’s love life choices and skewering them outright into a fractured fairy tale version creating much of the story center of the third season.

Mindy and Danny remain a fun twosome to watch, and the supporting cast remains so zany, and the dialogue, supplied primarily by Kaling herself, is so rapid-fire and witty, that The Mindy Project is filled with laughs, even though the third season offered less guffaws and more halfhearted chuckles and failed to push the envelope as prior seasons did.  Perhaps, instead of a sophomore season slump, the show experienced a junior season one?  Here’s hoping that graduating to a new platform and a new method of distribution will inject the show with some of the zest it initially offered in its first two seasons.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) The biggest of all – what’s going to happen when the new season starts with Danny and Mindy?  How are they going to navigate their new relationship?  And will the show stay funny?

Answer: Danny and Mindy’s relationship dominated season three.  The navigation came with quite a few growing pains, but, for the most part, the show stayed funny.

2) Should we care about any of the other characters?  So far, I don’t.

Answer: Peter became a marginally likable supporting player this season, serving as Mindy’s dude/bro best friend.  His quest to become worthy of the girlfriend he had was touching.  I also like Morgan and Tamra together because they kind of cluelessly work together.  Dr. Jeremy is handsome but uninteresting.

New Questions

1) Will Rhea Perlman be made a series regular?  SHE SHOULD BE.

2) Will Mindy’s parents give Danny permission to marry her?

3) Will the show stay funny if they actually get married?

4) Will everyone return for season four and the jump to Hulu?

5) Did you know that the next time you read about The Mindy Project on this blog, it will fall under the category of “Streaming Originals?”  True story.

PARTING SHOTS

The Mindy Project continues to be a funny show that likely continues to appeal the most to thirtysomething women still finding their footing in the world (of which this author would fall into such a category). The show lost some momentum going into season three when Mindy and Danny became a couple, which did not bode well for its continued stay on network television, but hopefully, the move to Hulu will allow more creative latitude and freedom to get the show revving again, though the producers and writers would do well to regain the balance between the budding romantic relationship at the forefront and Mindy’s own struggle to be her own kind of normal, which is when the show works best.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Mindy Project was canceled by FOX but then picked up streaming service Hulu and renewed for season four, which is slated to premiere on the service on September 15, 2015.  Until then!

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · September 1, 2015

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