The Mindy Project, which premiered its second season last night on Fox, is a bit like listening to someone explain their Gallatin concentration; it’s a bunch of great ideas smushed together in an act of desperation. The story surrounds Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a obstetrician/gynecologist in New York who’s looking for love in all the wrong places. Last year, the series was ranked #74 behind the now cancelled shows Go On and The New Normal. Its Tuesday premiere brought in only 4.7 million viewers, 23% percent fewer than tuned in to Raising Hope, which held the time slot last season. There’s something about Mindy that fails to grabs viewers and we’re not sure her new pixie-cut will do the trick.
Mindy Kaling, most recognizable for role as ditzy Kelly Kapoor on The Office, seems to be doing everything right. Kaling’s play, Matt & Ben, a hysterical retelling of how Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting, received critical acclaim in the early 2000′s. Her bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) brilliantly chronicles Kaling’s struggles in comedy from her bright years at Dartmouth to her failed stint as an SNL writer. The Mindy Project has collaborated with comedy legends Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, and Ed Helms. Ike Barinholtz, who had an enormously successful career with MADtv, appears full-time as goofy male nurse Morgan Tookers. The ingredients for an incredible show are all available, so why does Mindy fall flat?
The Season Two premiere opens with a recap of Mindy and Casey’s (Workaholics’ Anders Holm) summer in Haiti. Casey, a young minister, is eager to move forward with their romantic relationship. A less uptight, shorter-haired Mindy magically manages not to sweat off the pound of make-up she’s wearing under the Caribbean sun. When a convenient medical emergency sends them back to New York earlier than planned, Mindy learns the office went through major changes in her absence. James Franco guest stars as Dr. Paul Leotard (cute) and disseminates weird sex advice in his classic cannabis-coated slur. After some porn jokes, far too many discussions of scatology, and failed nuptials, the premiere abruptly ends with Mindy deciding to choose her job over her love life…again. She even gives a sideways smile before the credits roll, knowing she’ll find true happiness next week.
We’ve heard this one before. Mindy Lahiri is attempting to join the ranks of Liz Lemon, Carrie Bradshaw, Ally McBeal, and many more spunky ladies who can’t seem to get their shit together in the love department. However, Kaling’s biggest problem is her desire to combine the attributes of these characters into one person – a notably more realistic representation of the 21st century woman, but likely too complex for a mainstream audience. She’s Lemon with fashion sense or Bradshaw with an MD. She’s that girl in high school who was good at everything… So good, that no one trusted her.
Dr. Lahiri is an intelligent OB/GYN, but also loves to obsess over boys and shoes. She makes dumb comments about nail polish while administering an epidural. Funnily enough, it’s her airhead character that feels phony. When watching The Mindy Project there’s an overwhelming sense of embarrassment for Dr. Mindy Lahiri. The comedy in the series should arise from inherently hilarious actions, not from Mindy’s unmerited, girlish self-confidence. Kelly Kapoor was a shallow customer service representative. Mindy Lahiri is a doctor. It’s time for her to grow up and kick some ass.
In the past ten years, women have made television history. But with great power comes great responsibility, and revising old stereotypes will take time. The Daily Beast called The Mindy Project “the best show you’re not watching,” and it does have enormous potential. Until Kaling and her team are able to articulate a clearer protagonist, the season will continue to be a cloudy as James Franco’s vision. Cross your fingers for this ambitious, honorary Gallatino. She’ll figure it out, someday!