Defending 'The Mindy Project'

Despite unwarranted criticism and comparison, 'Mindy' succeeds in humor and talent


An underdog can be judged both by its quality and the level of adversity it faces in the recognition of this quality. With this in mind, no show currently on television is more of an underdog than FOX comedy “The Mindy Project.”

First, let’s discuss quality. “The Mindy Project,” above all, is a comedy — and in terms of humor, it fires on all cylinders. The writers’ vast experiences, with past stints including “30 Rock” and “The Office,” comes across clearly. Dialogue is quick, pop culture references are abundant and situations — some focused on the fictional OB/GYN practice Shulman and Associates, some focused on characters’ dating experiences — are both absurd and delightful. While the funniest lines come from the two main characters, the highly energetic Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and the curmudgeonly Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), the rest of the ensemble, notably Dr. Peter Prentice (Adam Pally) and Nurse Tamra (Xosha Roquemore), will frequently throw out hilarious one-liners.

Overall, characters share tremendous chemistry. If “The Mindy Project” is to be remembered for anything, it will be for the thorough and nuanced exploration of the relationship — platonic or otherwise — between Mindy and Danny. At the beginning of the series, the two were adversaries, with Danny regularly attacking Mindy’s weight and Mindy regularly attacking Danny’s recent divorce.

In the smallest of increments, however, Danny and Mindy become the other’s best emotional support, helping each other be “the best version” of themselves, as Danny once admits. This slow and meticulous progression is only able to succeed through the brilliant acting work between Kaling and Messina, who deserve an endless supply of awards for the emotion they can convey in one exchanged glance.

Unfortunately, “The Mindy Project,” and its talented actors, never gets the acclaim it deserves. Rather than receiving praise for strong comedy or acting, it has consistently received the back end of wrongful criticism and controversy. In many instances, this controversy stems from Kaling’s Indian background, as many critics, when discussing the show, waste time wondering why her character only dates white men. Commenting on the show from such a narrow perspective depicts “The Mindy Project” as a failure to adhere to a social agenda rather than recognizing it as a celebration of comedy and talent.

The show also runs into a roadblock by constantly being compared to other shows. Whether Kaling’s work on the show is compared to her past stint on “The Office,” or its creative choices are held up alongside other FOX shows such as “New Girl” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” the show is rarely criticized with an open mind. The program does not often get to stand on its own, where it might be better appreciated.

Nevertheless, “The Mindy Project” was recently renewed for a third season — one victory for a show which deserves far more than it gets. After all, it’s a witty, character-driven comedy with a cast full of talent and promise. It is the only show worth watching right when it airs, and the only show worth watching five times after that, in case a detail was passed by or a moment went unnoticed. It is not just an “underdog TV show” — it’s one-of-a-kind.

The Mindy Project returns with new episodes on FOX Tuesday, April 1, at 9 p.m.

Published March 18, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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