Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project
Episode 24: Take Me With You
The Season Finale
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy?

What is this show about?

I asked this question in the pilot and after twenty-four episodes all I can tell you is that I have absolutely no idea. At first glance, I would say that this was a workplace comedy. The characters on this show all work for the same medical firm. There is a patient this week that's delivering triples and this is considered a big deal for some reason. If this was your first episode, you would be excused for thinking that the workplace actually is a factor in most episodes. I think only the pilot and the finale have an actual patient that the characters are dealing with. I could be wrong but the point is they barely factor into most episodes. There were some attempts at creating humor at the workplace earlier on in the season but that seems to have largely stopped. The only reason we even get to see the firm is so that the characters can all be in one place before the writers split them off into their own little adventures. It is now rare that any of these adventures have anything to do with the medical practice. It used to be different and there are some exceptions but the firm has largely become a backdrop for the show. It exists as the reason for why the characters see each other every day but it's importance in the show has fallen so hard that it's pretty easy to forget that they're supporting to be co-workers. If the second season decided to drop the workplace set then I don't think it would have any real impact on the narrative. It's gotten to the point where it can actually be redundant in some episodes. There might have been a patient this week but she played such a small role that it actually felt like the writers were trying to fill time.

Okay, so the show is not a workplace comedy but it has a large ensemble cast. Does this mean it's a hangout comedy? It can be. The show is often split into two halves. The first, most interested one, is whatever Mindy is doing. She is the titular main character of the show and yet she's a protagonist who is far removed from the rest of the characters. The only one who seems to have any real relationship with her is Danny. The rest are mere friends who are loyal to her but that's basically as far as it goes. The second half of the show is the “hangout” part of the Mindy Project. It's often the weakest part of the episode as it involves everyone not named Mindy. This is a problem because the only two developed and fleshed out characters are Mindy and Danny. It's true that Danny sometimes gets to be a part of the “hangout” plot but that's not always the case and he's often only a supporting character. The ensemble gets to basically have their time here but they're largely filler. Their plots tend to be typical sit-com situations and it's easy to forget they exist. It's even sadder when you factor in that there's only two side characters who really make it to every sub-plot. Jeremy and Morgan are always two players as Betsy, Morgan, and Beverly are often relegated to the background. The “hangout” part of the show can often make up half an episode but it's often weak and forgettable. What's worse is that it's completely expendable. You could drop this part of the show and just give Danny something to do and you could have a much stronger season. In fact, I do think this show should drop everyone but Mindy and Danny. Build the show around them. We don't need an ensemble and the Mindy Project has proven it doesn't really know what to do with one.

The main part of the show has to do with Mindy and whatever problem she's facing that week. These problems can range but they are usually rooted by whatever relationship she is in. This is one of the reasons that Danny works so well: he's in a “will-they-won't-they” dance with Mindy. He's the long-term love interest. The rest of the characters don't fit into Mindy's love life (not even ex-lover Jeremy) so they don't really work well. This is primarily why Danny is the only character who can go between the hangout show and the relationship drama with ease. It speaks volumes when Mindy's boyfriends are all more developed and fit more naturally into the show than every supporting character (except Danny of course). This is where the show's true strengths can show but it's also a double-edged sword. For one thing, these boyfriends are all going to be temporary. They appear for a few episodes until the relationship breaks down and Mindy is left single. It has to be this way so that she can end up with Danny by the end of the run. It's funny how Mindy is always seeking a relationship that could fit in a romantic comedy without realizing she's already in one-with Danny. The other problem other than the revolving door of boyfriends is that this means that this part of the show is only as strong as the current boy she's dating. If the character isn't strong enough or if she doesn't have the right chemistry then this half of the show will severely struggle. This is part of the Mindy Project that is often it's strongest but it can also be it's Achilles heel.

What can I suggest for the next season? Get rid of the workplace set, fire everyone who isn't Mindy or Danny, and have Danny move in next door to Mindy. Make the entire show about their love lives and I think that the Mindy Project could become a really great comedy. This solves the problem of having a redundant set and ensemble as well allowing the show to develop what it's clearly interested in pursuing: making homages to romantic comedies. The show can do what it's best and it can allow Danny to be a part of that show completely. Just think about how great the whole Christine plot would have worked if the writers could develop her as much as they have spent on Casey or Josh. The plot with Danny's ex-wife could have been a lot stronger and it would have resonated if it didn't have to deal with Morgan or any of the other workplace characters. It's failure to do this means that the Mindy Project will always be a show that's a constant need to be retooled. The title should refer to Mindy, not the mess that is this series. Now I know this is likely that this is not going to happen. The fact that the series is expanding it's ensemble even further is only a sign that the producers haven't realized that it's this large cast of characters that has become a major problem for the show. If they can't recognize that then how could they possibly shake up the series so that it can implement the proper changes.

This is why I'm checking out of the Mindy Project. It's such a big mess and I doubt that the changes necessary to make it work is going to happen. There was a period of behind-the-scenes changes that were supposed to fix the problems with this show but they didn't work. They were small and aren't the drastic steps necessary to save the Mindy Project. I enjoy a large part of this show. I could see myself tuning in to occasionally check on the second season. I'm just not going to waste anymore time covering this show. The Mindy Project is easily this season's biggest disappointment as it never could live up to my expectations of at least having it's premise figured out.


So a character who has appeared in the last three episodes is going to be a series regular next season: someone named Tamara. Who the hell is she? I basically have no idea who she is as I don't remember anybody with that name.

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