Review: ‘The Mindy Project’

Mindy’s back and even more ‘preggo’ than before

What’s on Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s plate besides a piece of greasy fried chicken with a side of the new rainbow Doritos and a Big Gulp to wash it all down? Not much, except that she’s on the cusp of starting her own business, trying to nail down her noncommittal co-worker/boyfriend/baby daddy, while being pregnant in New York.

Television almost lost the rom-com based show after Fox chose not to renew The Mindy Project for a fourth season, leaving Mindy Kaling’s self-titled sitcom in limbo until Hulu decided to pick it up and dub it a ‘Hulu Original.’

With new episodes airing Tuesdays on Hulu, we last saw television’s quirky gynecologist, Mindy, left behind in New York unable to travel because of her lengthy pregnancy, while all her co-workers gathered in Austin for Peter’s (Adam Pally) wedding, including her boyfriend Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). But Danny never makes it to Austin, opting to go India instead to tell Mindy’s parents that he still loves her and their unborn baby, even though he doesn’t want to marry her.

Loosely based on rom-com plots like It’s Wonderful Life, Sliding Doors, and 13 Going On 30 that feature ‘what if’’ scenarios, the first episode of The Mindy Project’s fourth season titled “While I Was Sleeping” juxtaposes two plot lines: one having Mindy in an alternate universe married to a Bravo network producer named Matt, played by the dreamy Joseph Gordon Levitt, and the other set in reality where Danny travels to India and is tasked to help Mr. and Mrs. Lahiri with arranging a marriage for Mindy, unbeknownst to them that he is the father of their grandchild.

At first glance, Mindy’s fantasy relationship with Levitt’s character appears perfect: he produces her favorite reality show, he’s a wealthy Gentile, lets her proudly display her South Park pinball machine, and doesn’t admonish her for accidentally mistaking a decorative bowl of seashells for her favorite potato chips. But we soon see that Mindy’s hotshot husband makes her a kind of sort of terrible person. Instead of starting her own fertility clinic in reality, in the alternate universe Mindy’s business venture is something far less noble, called Delectable Desires and described by her husband Matt as “slutty girdles for the sexually active obese.” Hilarious writing and delivery, but a tragic character flaw for the Mindy we know and love.

Danny’s matchmaking experience in India with the Lahiris balances Mindy’s It’s A Wonderful Life redux, and provides a fresh perspective on Mindy’s familial upbringing and her future relationship with Danny. Staunchly against marriage after his failed first one, Danny warms up to the idea of marrying Mindy after seeing her parents, who had an arranged marriage, work so well together despite their differences. Usually guaranteed to say something hilarious, Danny’s wit goes to the wayside while the Lahiris eccentric personalities, coupled with Danny’s line about how Mindy would only have an arranged marriage with a white NBA player, highlight the show’s goal of tiptoeing the line between culturally observant and stereotypically offensive, just enough to get an honest to goodness laugh from all audiences.

But things don’t get really good until nurse practitioner Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz)) arrives in India after his idiotic naiveté leads him to a misdirected pit stop in Pakistan with Taliban recruitment, shockingly not out of the realm of possibility for Morgan. When interviewing an ideal Indian husband for Mindy, who is an ex-hip-hop dancer, Morgan says in the most matter-of-fact way, “It says here you like to dance. I myself I couldn’t walk until I was twelve. Can you speak to that?” Utterly ridiculous, classically Morgan, and perfectly hilarious.

Despite Fox’s shoddy faith in the series, it’s hard for audiences not to fall in love with Kaling’s alter ego: an accomplished female doctor, who may or may not be too obsessed with Nora Ephron-esque romantic comedies, the Real Housewives franchise, and everything that is trashy popular culture. Mindy isn’t your typical sitcom heroine who is an adorkable Barbie. Instead, she’s a somewhat crass and sassy character who means well, and says things like: “I have the right to life, liberty, and chicken wings.”

Mindy may not be your run-of-the-mill Carol Brady, Ginger Grant, or Ally McBeal. Mindy is better than that. She’s the woman we all want to be. No, not the rail thin, supple chested, cool girl who is able to down whiskey with the guys and pretend like she’s a flower that doesn’t produce any excrement, but the woman who orders Appletinis without abandon, owns up to being able to eat multiple pizzas, flaunts her love for saccharine sweet pop music, and is the perfect amount of selfish endearment.

What was once unstable in the past, The Mindy Project proved in the season four premiere that it’s a soon-to-be cult classic show, with the fixings of traditional comedy coupled with contemporary cultural observation. Here’s hoping that we see a riotous delivery scene when Mindy and Danny’s baby is finally born.

Review: ‘The Mindy Project’

 

 

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