The Mindy Project
Episode 17:Mindy's Birthday
By: Carlos Uribe
The Mindy Project is about an OB/GYN named Mindy.
The most frustrating part about The Mindy Project is because it reveals a major weakness in the show: the undefined relationship between Mindy and almost everyone on this show. Most of the regular characters on this show are Mindy's co-workers. They might be friendly towards each other but they largely interact because they work together. There is no reason that they would be a close-knit friends but the series is trying to sell that they are. Why? Why do they like Mindy so much? It's not enough that she's the protagonist and these are her adventures. There needs to be a specific reason on why each of them feels some kind of loyalty to Mindy. The only character who really has any sort of special relationship with her is Danny. The two might not agree on their life views but they hold each other with respect and they have managed to become friends. The reason that the two work really well together isn't just the chemistry between the two of them but because the writing has an edge to their scenes. This is because they aren't friends for the sake of it but because they have grown to depend on each other. Amongst the current main characters only Danny shares a natural friendship with Mindy. Everyone else? The series is trying to force it. The Mindy Project has already been renewed for a second season but it would be to the writers benefit to meet over the summer and figure out what each person means to Mindy and vice versa. That and actually figuring out what the show is really about so that I know what to expect when I watch this show.
A large conflict arises in the birthday party scene when all of Mindy's friends give her backhanded gifts. They were meant to be thoughtful but really they insult her. The most confounding gift of them all comes from Gwen. Her demotion to recurring status might have made sense because the writers couldn't fit her into the show but she was one of the few characters who actually had a friendship with Mindy. You could tell they were best friends because they got each other. This episode throws that away when Gwen gets Mindy a book about making microwave meals for one. This not only betrays what we know about how close Gwen and Mindy are but her own character as well. There's no way Gwen would ever give someone that book no matter if it was a stranger. She's supposed to be too classy for that. It's like the writers completely forgot who Gwen was since she last appeared and the inconsistent characterization really showed. Mindy does escape her own party because she doesn't want to feel terrible about her own life. She goes to a bar where there's some promise but it's thrown out of the window. Why? Mindy meets some girls and they give her the positive reinforcement that she needed. When she couldn't return the favor, they threw drinks in her face. The message was that these girls weren't really Mindy's friends but it was poorly delivered. So what, Mindy has to pick to be friends with a group of people who don't really know her? The writers then manage to find a way to bring Beth into the episode and they do share a brief connection. That's a start: building Mindy's relationship with Beth. Here's the thing-Beth was just promoted to main character and they haven't done the same for Mindy with anyone other than Danny. Okay, they also sort-of did this with Jeremy because she slept with him but that doesn't explain why he's so loyal to her. Mindy reunites with her friends when Danny ends up in the hospital when they were looking for her.
Granted, Danny didn't end up in the hospital because of the search. There was a running sub-plot where Jeremy and Danny were competing for the same women, Alex. The problem with this competition? The stakes didn't really make much sense. Who was the main character in the sub-plot? Danny. He liked Alex and we were supposed to root for him to beat Jeremy but he doesn't have the chemistry with her and the series is pushing a “will-they-won't-they” relationship between Danny and Mindy. When we're supposed to be rooting for Danny and Mindy to get together, it feels counter-productive to ask the audience to be on Danny's side as he tries to win over another girl. If the stakes was somehow tied to the relationship between Jeremy and Danny then maybe it would have made more sense. This would require having actually established why Danny and Jeremy are friends beyond they're partners at the same practice. The competition doesn't seem to be fair at first as Jeremy uses every line he has to charm her but Danny accidentally falling into a manhole to impress a girl won Alex over. There was no real reason to care and the sub-plot didn't really work. At least the main plot was good for a few laughs as the sub-plot was completely devoid of them.
It's been seventeen episodes but the Mindy Project still feels like it's unpolished. There have been behind-the-scenes changes that were supposed to make the show work but they forgot to actually define the show. Mindy's Birthday might have some laughs but it never really works together because there's no real reason for Mindy to be friends with most of her co-workers. The more the series tries to push them without actually making them have meaningful connections, the more forced the scenes become. Overall, an episode that exposes that the writers and producers still don't know how to make this show work.