Friday, February 1, 2013

The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project
Episode 13: Harry & Sally
By: Carlos Uribe

The Mindy Project is about an OB/GYN named Mindy.

Spoilers Ahoy?

It is frustrating to see a great show like Ben and Kate get canceled while the massive disappointment that has been the Mindy Project survive. I don't blame the network or the American public. That comedy simply didn't connect with enough people and that's understandable. What is surprising is that the Mindy Project has managed to hold on to it's ratings. It's true that they're not very high but it's unlikely that this series is going to get pulled and then canceled. That the ratings are stable shows that there's a show in here that people seem to be responding to but I'm not sure what it is. The writers are able to make a lot of the episodes consistently funny but it's lacking any heart, consistent characters, or at times even good plots. The series is still trying to resolve the problems that have persisted since the pilot because it's never really figured out what it was about. It would be a workplace comedy one week before transitioning into a romantic comedy or a show about friends. It's never seemed to settle into being a show which means you never really know what you're going to get with the Mindy Project. The workplace comedy tends to flop big because the show hasn't bothered to develop the side characters. Mindy's personal life takes a lot of screen time but it delivers inconsistent results. It might be funny one week or not the other week. It doesn't help that the character of Mindy tends to ebb from episode to episode. With all of these problems, it makes me wonder if people are watching it because they think this could be a good show and they hope that it'll one day fulfill their expectations? Or do the show's fans just have different standards than me? The fact is I've become more and more disillusioned with this show. At this stage, I really won't miss this show like Ben and Kate if it gets canceled. I'm not even sure I want it to come back.

I keep talking about the behind-the-scenes changes that are supposed to address these problems. This is possibly the first episode that shows that the producers are trying to fix the show. It doesn't flesh out any character nor does it really do anything to become consistently funny. This becomes apparent when there's a whole sub-plot where Mindy's new best friend from college hits on Jeremy. It becomes puzzling why this best friend wasn't Gwen considering how similar they are which only serves to point out how undeveloped everyone is. It might be because Gwen isn't single but the show merely infers that Mindy has another best friend. That the show seems to ignore her existence in favor of this new best friend without actually doing anything to establish her relationship with Mindy is yet another example of how the show just throws elements into the plot and magically expect them to fit. The sub-plot wasn't funny and the friend only made me laugh when she had to go the bathroom after being carried down a deck of stairs. The sub-plot itself seems to be abandoned about halfway through the episode which is just lazy. Actually that's a huge quality that this show can be described to have: it's too lazy to really do anything right. It's not willing to put in the work and that's why the Mindy Project continues to suffer.

This laziness shows through the plot between Danny and the eye patch girl. This is their entire three-episode arc: Danny and girl meet each other and hit off, the two go on a date where the girl plans something that is outside Danny's comfort zone, and they break up because Danny doesn't listen to her. Now it was smart to actually show us in multiple scenes of Danny refusing to listen to her or unable to remember things she had told him. It's just that the relationship moved remarkably fast. There isn't a single episode where we see them working together as a happy couple. Why are we supposed to care if Danny wins her back when all we've seen is a meet-cute followed by Danny refusing to really be interested in her. He doesn't listen, he ditches her date plans, and he doesn't seem to be to upset with the breakup. Since we don't see that this relationship matters to him, it becomes difficult to root for the couple to survive. At least Danny was able to be funny, largely because he wasn't paired with Morgan or Jeremy.

The main plot has to do with Mindy. She spends this entire episode dealing with an increasingly complicated love life. There is Brendan, who is casually sleeping with her even as she's developing feelings for him. That Mindy can't help but get attached to him is a disappointing reversion into expected fictional female behavior. This might have been hinted at the previous episode but it truly was explored in this episode. That Mindy became stupid to believe they might actually be dating was just as insulting to her character. The show can't present Mindy to be as intelligent as she's supposed to be but make her this clueless. This confusion does lead her into starting a potential relationship with her former Office co-star B.J. Novak. The thing is that this character is involved in his own Sam-and-Diane situation with his best friend and that gets in the way between Mindy and him having a successful first date. I'll admit that Novak was a pleasure in this episode but it just made it too busy. Having two separate romantic plots going on might have made sense in the writing room but it leads to a situation where the episode is too crammed. The two romantic plots aren't allowed to stand on their own or to even breath. It was simply too crammed.

I noted how this is the first episode that shows signs of improvement. It might not have come in the humor or the characters but at least it seems to be defining what it is. It appears to be interested in being a romantic comedy. I say “appears” because the show does have a history of changing it's mind every few episodes. We'll see this new found focus stays or whether the show diverts it to something else. If it does then I have no doubt in my mind that the Mindy Project will be able to resolve it's problems with characters and the quality of jokes. Harry & Sally isn't a very good episode but at least it's a step into a direction rather than the aimless journey this show has been on.

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