Every Fall season, I eagerly drink in all the articles that want to convince me that some show or another is going to be the Next Big Thing — something bigger, better, cuter, and infinitely more hilarious than everything heretofore seen since the Last Big Thing. Then, I promptly decide that not only am I going to hate everything, but that I will mutter incoherently each morning reading recaps of shows I refuse to watch based on no particular principle whatsoever. Incomprehensibly, this is the way I get excited about the Fall.
It is also how I get excited about family road trips, but that is a story for a different time.
This year, you could hardly buy your daily duo of Tanqueray and Funyons without seeing Mindy Kaling’s smiling face on a magazine under the word ‘Hit!’ I wanted to decide to hate this show, but with a few months of Kaling’s Twitter posts floating around my feed winning me over with her special brand of acerbic observation and truth-telling, I just couldn’t help but get a little excited to maybe actually like something for a change, instead of loving to hate something while secretly really posting very involved comments about it on BuddyTV under a fake name. No, I’m kidding. I don’t do that (yes, I do).
In this debut episode, we meet Mindy Kaling’s character, Mindy Lahiri. Mindy is an OB/Gyn who has absolutely no game with men. At the beginning of the episode, we hear all about how in Mindy’s life, unlike in her favorite romantic comedies, women get left by their glorified dentist boyfriends for a Serbian bagel girl in serious need of his services. In Mindy’s life, women also drink a few too many vodka sodas at their ex’s wedding, ride a stolen bike into a pool and hallucinate a particularly mean-spirited come-to-Jesus lecture by a talking Barbie doll. Oh, and then they end up in jail for their efforts.
We join Mindy in real time, getting sprung from jail by her best friend, Gwen (Anna Camp) and promising to change her errant ways. The only thing standing in her way is an ongoing tryst with her sexy British fellow doctor, Jeremy, played by the dashing Ed Weeks. But, anyone who’s ever seen an episode of television knows that the real romantic danger for Mindy lies with the snarky Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) whose presence in every shot seems designed to figuratively pull her ponytails. As Mindy is recovering from her night in the hoosegow, Danny is busily stealing one of her patients and giving her fashion advice – including a recommendation that she lose 15 pounds.
Can we invent a word for this sort of antagonistic flirting? Flirtagonism? Flirtsulting? Once I thought a cab driver was flirtsulting me, but it turned out he was just being mean, because my tip was crappy. In my defense, my math skills stink.
All of this good old fashioned sexual tension is but a glimmer of the future of this series, though, because this episode is all about spending 20 minutes showing us how much of a mess Mindy can be, only to flip the ending on us and show us that this messiness doesn’t belie her capability as a talented, serious doctor. Just when Mindy’s romantic woes start to travel down a hilarious black hole of nervous chatter on a date with Dennis (guest star and Office pal Ed Helms), an uninsured patient goes into labor and she is forced to bail on the date.
Up until this point in the episode, there was a bit of a Jess from The New Girl as a doctor feel to the show. I didn’t mind this so much, except for the fact that I’d just watched two episodes of Jess from The New Girl as an unemployed teacher on her own show, so I guess I wanted a little something more from Mindy Kaling, whose appeal to me has always been her braininess and ability to cut right to the quick in 140 characters or less.
At this moment in the show, Mindy returns to the hospital dressed in a fiery red minidress and heels. To the strains of the hard-hitting MIA song, Bad Girls (a hardcore Real Woman anthem if there ever was one), Mindy drops her sexy duds and replaces them with even sexier professional scrubs, tied back hair and glasses. It was like the sexy librarian stereotype in reverse. Rather than becoming desirable by tarting herself up, she became attractive in her professional capability. It is notable, too, that this is the point of the show where Danny starts to really take notice. The first nice thing he says to her in the episode is a compliment on how she handled her patient’s breach birth.
If the message of The New Girl is that it can be completely charming to be a quirky, earnest nerd, the message of The Mindy Project is that sometimes you are the most attractive version of yourself when you aren’t trying to be attractive at all and that sometimes you are the very last person to realize that. All in all, I think that the two shows complement each other nicely in FOX’s Tuesday lineup and I can’t wait to not hate the rest of this season.
(Image courtesy of FOX)