The Mindy Project pilot that aired last night at first glance might seem like little more than a likable piece of fluff that should entertain the 15-25 yr old, rom com loving audience. But after watching the pilot again today, I was struck by the deft touch of the writing, the great cast and topical issues, seeds that I believe will help the show become more engaging and funnier. Mindy Kaling’s pilot initially suffers from the nature of today’s comedy pilots in that she’s forced to introduce all the characters, settings, conflicts, and still deliver funny lines and something to keep everyone watching. Kaling stars as a 31-year-old OB/GYN whose life is a mixed bag. She’s good at her job, but bad at real relationships, beautiful, but not traditionally so. Her workplace is full of interesting characters including the sexy Brit she’s sleeping with (Ed Weeks) and the abrasive doctor she will eventually sleep with since this is TV and there’s so much chemistry there (the great Chris Messina). Throughout the pilot we get snippets of Mindy’s professional and personal life, both of which frequently mix to hilarious effect.
Much like Lena Dunham over on HBO, Kaling is not afraid to make her characters somewhat unlikable to convey their humanity. She’s also not afraid to detail the struggles of a woman who might not have it all together when it comes to men, finding awkward ways to sabotage dates with both Ed Helms and Bill Hader. It’s the frank way she treats this woman (herself) who doesn’t look like a model, she still dates, has sex, thinks about her weight, and makes bad life decisions that gives me hope that once Kaling settles into a writing groove she’ll expand that frankness to the rest of the cast.
Speaking of the cast, everyone in the ensemble seems to be in the best role for them. Weeks is appropriately caddish as her fuck buddy, Anna Camp as her concerned best friend never met a line of advice she couldn’t deliver, and Stephen Tobolowsky is funny in a bit part as her boss. But Chris Messina is the standout as the abrasive doctor who isn’t afraid to call Mindy on her BS and return the same kind of lack of artifice. The conversation him and Kaling have about halfway into the pilot about what to wear on a date which devolves into cringe worthy insults (she attacks him being divorced, he says she should lose 15 lbs) was great cause you believe that Messina’s character could be both that callous and caring in the same beat.
As I mentioned above, Kaling’s strength of delivering human characters and dialog is pretty good, but due to the lightness of the show I didn’t feel like anything in the show had real stakes or consequences. I hate to keep comparing it to Girls, but due to the light comedic nature of the show and the levity with which she treats everything makes the show not seem to have the gravitas that other show has. However, Kaling has a strong track record when it comes to writing work place comedies and I think that now that the show is over the pilot hump, that she could deliver some great comedy and turn this into a fun series.
Tags: Anna Camp, bill hader, Chris Messina, Ed Helms, Ed Weeks, Entertainment/Culture, Mindy, mindy kaling, Pilot, pilot review, Stephen Tobolowsky, television, Television Reviews, The Mindy Project, the office
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