Friday, March 1, 2013

The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project
Episode 16: The One That Got Away
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy?

You know what the Mindy Project does exceptionally well? Bringing in big guest stars into it's universe. There are a lot of shows that struggle with finding a way to make it's guest stars fit. They have the potential to overpower the show or to merely look like a desperate ratings grab. They can be tricky to pull off properly but it's possibly the best aspect about the Mindy Project. This is pretty evident in this week's episode when Seth Rogen drops in. He plays a character in the army who shared a moment with Mindy when they were kids. He was her first kiss at summer camp. The two get in touch over Facebook and now the two are going to spend their day together. Mindy is hoping that they'll be able to start dating so that she could fulfill her dream of being in her very own romantic comedy. The two are able to connect but there's a major obstacle to the two of them getting together. He's going to go back to Afghanistan the very next day. His deployment means that their not going to be able to build a relationship together. Mindy's first reaction is to leave him alone so she can get back to work. Since she can't be with him then why waste her time? That is until she realizes that basically makes her a horrible person so she does decide to spend the rest of the day with him. The two hang out but this only makes Mindy want him to stay in the country. When he gets injured, she hopes she'll be able to nurse him back to health. When that fails, she hopes to find a way to get him kicked out of the army. In the end, she has to let him leave as he leaves behind a nice letter to provide closure for their brief relationship. It's nice, it's sweet, and it works.

The question becomes why is the Mindy Project so good at being able to bring in guest stars? The answer is two-fold. The first is that there's such a huge concentration on Mindy's personal life so that the series can easily write them into the show's universe. Seth Rogen, BJ Novak, and Ed Helms were organically put into the show as potential love interests for Mindy. She's been able to really easily bounce of all three so the show can sell the dates to the audience. This really only works with male guest stars so it'll be interesting if the show can fit in females just as well. The second is that the rest of the show remains so undefined. They can come in and the show can do whatever it wants with them simply because there isn't anything to work around. There's the practice but the show has never really been about the workplace. What do Betsy, Morgan, Jeremy, and Beverly do every episode? They might get an inconsequential sub-plot that doesn't really add much to the episode but that's it. These characters are basically in the background of the episode but it never really feels like we're missing them. There are times when the plot revolves around the practice but the only time it's significant is when Mindy is actually involved. In other words, the Mindy Project is so much about whatever Mindy is doing that's all the show is about. If Mindy wants to date Seth Rogen then it can do so without any consequence to the rest of the show because it doesn't exist. If Mindy needs to solve a problem at the practice then she can drop in and do that but she's not required to do that every week. It makes sense that the series would focus on whatever project Mindy is working on but it also means that the show outside the protagonist is non-existent.

The episode is primarily about Mindy dating Seth Rogen. It's a fun plot as Seth Rogen does a good job of being able to fit into the show's sense of humor but also because he only had to fit in with Mindy. That doesn't mean there isn't a sub-plot to fill time between Mindy and Seth's day together. That sub-plot has to do with Danny when he's asked by a couple if he would donate their sperm to them. He accepts but he instantly regrets it. The other characters make him realize that a major life decision this is when they start talking about the consequences. It's Mindy who makes him realize that if he is doing this then it's for the wrong reasons. She's able to get him out of the situation by telling the couple about Danny's unappealing traits. This is a plot that largely worked but my problem is Mindy. It really is like this show can't do anything without her. What's my problem with this? It's great that Danny seeks out Mindy's advice on this as it shows that their relationship is building. He really does consider her a friend despite all their differences. The problem is that Mindy closes out his plot for him. This removes Danny's agency which diminishes his character. It also reinforces the idea that all there is to this show is Mindy.

The Mindy Project had recently gone some behind-the-scenes changes to try and fix the show's problems but I'm not sure it worked. This might have been a good and funny episode but only partially because Seth Rogen was able to fit in so easily. The major problem of this show remains the focus. What is it about? It's moving towards settling Mindy's personal life but then that brings up the question of why the show promoted Morgan to series regular and brought Beverly on board? This show is likely to come back but I think the show is going to need major retooling over the summer. My suggestion? Drop the practice and everyone not named Mindy or Danny. Have Danny move next door to Mindy so that the two can continue their banter. The show can truly become about Mindy's personal life without having to keep up a whole part of the show that is contributing nothing towards it. If the recent episodes are any indication this is basically what the writers seem to want even if they don't completely know it yet.

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