The Mindy Project
Episode 11: Bunk Bed
By: Carlos Uribe
The Mindy Project is about an OB/GYN named Mindy.
You know what I think the problem with this show is? Mindy Kaling got elements from her favorite shows and just threw them together into one pilot rather than allowing the elements to naturally form. This created the mess that is going to hopefully be fixed in a few episodes but it does mean that the present episode contains many of the same flaws from it's predecessors. It still doesn't have it's characters down, many jokes fall flat, and many of the plots simply aren't working out. All three are basically a manifestation the show's inability to bring all of the elements from pilot into one coherent series. If it had known what it wanted to be from the beginning then the Mindy Project would have been able to solve these problems to match the initial expectations the critics had. It shouldn't come as a surprise that this has prompted behind-the-scenes changes that will hopefully be able to fix the show. The question becomes whether these changes are going to become significant enough to save the show or if it's going to be a case of “too little, too late”? This is important to note because while they'll become apparent soon enough, we're still watching the episodes that don't bear any sense that the writers are trying to solve the show's problems. The Mindy Project might very well end up fixing it's problems for the second half of the season but it's going to have to face an even bigger uphill battle: getting all the viewers who have given up on it to come back. It's going to have to get the critics who have given up on it to start talking about it again. This is one of the most difficult things for a show to do but it's necessary if the series plans to survive.
So what happened this week? Well, like every episode, it was all over the place. There was the plot at work. The series decided that Danny was going to force his employees to work on Saturday. There is no reason that the office plot couldn't have worked on a regular weekday but I guess it's because they felt the need to explain why Mindy wasn't at work or why Jeremy is absent. Danny becomes a workplace tyrant where he bans the employees from getting on Facebook. This is all really a huge set-up for when Danny leaves the office for a significant portion of the episode. The show gives the receptionists and Morgan an excuse to get into Danny's office so that they can find a letter that Danny had written to his ex-wife. This is a letter that makes them realize that Danny's heart was broken by the love of his life and they think this explains why he's such a big jerk. They all decide to text him their sympathy but Morgan takes it a step further when he actually mails the letter. Morgan tries to warn Danny but he can't because he's afraid of getting in trouble. The consequences of this action are left for a future episode because the plot isn't fully resolved. While I'm actually hoping that bringing in Danny's ex-wife will allow the show to reveal new layers about the character, the way the show decided to bring her in was a disaster. Shauna and Betsy continue to be problem characters in that they're simply not funny while the show continues to have too much faith in Morgan's antics. I've never really like the character because he's just an assortment of different eccentricities that don't actually form a human being. With the sole exception of Morgan trying to break into a mail box, this entire office plot failed to make me laugh simply because the people involved aren't developed enough to build actual humor around them. The series tries to substitute with broad and dull jokes but they never really come alive because the series simply isn't good at these kind of jokes.
It really is good at building comedy around the characters who are actually developed. Take the main plot that revolved around Mindy's personal life. Mindy is a character who at least has some definition to her. It's the weekend and Mindy wants to hang out with her best friend, Gwen. Gwen is usually a delight on this show but she continues to remain underused by the show. Even in an episode that revolves around her friendship with Mindy, Gwen remains conspicuously absent for most of the plot. In fact, she acts more as a plot device than anything. It's Gwen who agrees to stay over but she has a daughter that Mindy has to account for. This involves building a titular bunk bed for Mindy to buy and someone else to build. That someone else turns out to be Danny. He agrees to help because he claims to be good at building things. This allows the show to have great interactions between Danny and Mindy. The only reason this works is the under-the-surface attraction the two share with each other and because they're characters with enough definition to make the banter work. Gwen does arrive at the apartment but disaster strikes when the bunk bed falls apart and breaks her arm. This leads to a scene where Danny agrees to take Gwen to the hospital while Mindy has to take care of Gwen's daughter. Once again, Gwen acted as a plot device because her injury only leads to Danny finding a potential new and short-term love interest. He shares great chemistry with her and it'll be exciting to see where this goes. Considering that his ex-wife's arrival is now a ticking time bomb, the show also appears to be cooking up a recipe for disaster that rivals Josh and Mindy's Christmas Party.
While Danny is getting a new love interest, Mindy is trying to build a relationship with Gwen's daughter. Their interactions up to this point haven't been completely friendly. Mindy tends to forget or ignore the daughter's existence. This is presumably because Mindy wants her best friend all to herself and doesn't want to share her. I say “presumably” because the show hasn't developed the relationship between the three enough for me to really have a firm grip on it. Mindy is able to connect with the daughter at the very end when she talks about how she first met Gwen. This is great and all but it's also a part that showcases this show's lack of focus. What was this episode really about? Was it about Gwen and Mindy's relationship? That might have been driving a large part of the episode but Gwen wasn't really in it long enough to be about that and she was too much of a plot device. Was it about Gwen's daughter and Mindy? Once again, the daughter wasn't long enough in it but it's at least hinted throughout the episode. Is it about Mindy and Danny's relationship? Well, the plot wasn't about that at all. Is it about Danny's history and personality? Mindy's plot had nothing to do with either except setting him up with a new love interest. If this episode had picked any of these cores then it could have created a focused main plot that really worked. It might have had comic material that was pretty good but it could have had an ending that really landed.
Bunk Bed is simply further proof that the Mindy Project is still too scattered to be effective. The series itself still doesn't know what it's about and the episodes continue to try and fit too many elements at once. The episode might have been funny when it was with Mindy but it wasn't when it shifted over to the office. Bunk Bed had it's moments but it's yet another episode where the Mindy Project's problems from the pilot shine through.