The Mindy Project has quite a bit to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. While other networks are often trigger-happy with cancellations (The Last Resort, 666 Park Avenue and Partners were all canceled last week), Fox is giving Mindy Kaling’s freshman comedy time to find itself. And it definitely needs the time. Each episode seems to take a “let’s throw jokes and plots up against the wall and see what sticks” approach.
Yesterday it was reported that Amanda Setton, who plays the sexy receptionist Shauna, is departing the series and that Anna Camp, who plays Mindy’s best friend Gwen, is being bumped down to a recurring character. The show never figured out the best way to utilize Camp and now that she’s no longer a series regular, she will have time to pursue other projects. (I need to start an online petition to lobby for her return to The Good Wife). But I liked Shauna. I would have chosen to lose wacky nurse Morgan over her. There’s so much not working about the series right now, I’m not sure either of these changes will help.
The news of Camp’s status change happened right when the show finally decided to feature her more prominently. Mindy must go to Gwen’s house to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Gwen also has invited Dennis (returning guest star Ed Helms), the man Mindy had one awkward blind date with in the pilot. Her run-in with Dennis comes the day after Josh has told her he’s not ready to be exclusive.
It seems mean to keep harping on the things that are wrong with the show. The Mindy character remains grating, annoying and erratic. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s focus on the things that are kind of working on the show. There are moments when you can see flashes of what The Mindy Project could be. The cold open scenes that air before the opening credits are excellent. Last week, it was Josh accidently putting on Mindy’s jeans. This week, Josh hilariously prepares dinner for Mindy on multiple panini presses—one course involves a Red Bull glaze. It was the first time the show has made me laugh out loud.
At Thanksgiving, Mindy meets Dennis’s new girlfriend who tells Mindy she also went to Princeton. When she hears Mindy graduated in 2002, she exclaims “Oh no. We didn’t overlap.” Mindy is horrified that Gwen may have replaced her with a younger version of herself—Mindy 2.0. This leads to several confrontations between the two best friends. “I’m not saying you’re a mess, but I’m not saying you’re not,” Gwen tells her. You can always count on your best friend for brutal honesty and this is definitely something Mindy needed to hear.
I’m not generally a fan of a catfight. Women physically fighting is something that happens much more on TV than it does in real life. I could have done without Gwen and Mindy clawing at each other. But Gwen screaming “Talk to the universal remote bitch” at Mindy was pretty funny. However, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Gwen and Mindy are friends. Would you remain friends with someone who constantly made fun of your husband, your child and your life? Probably not.
Hurt by Josh’s lack of commitment, Mindy hits on Dennis. But then she gets a call from Josh telling her he’s at a strip club and he’s declined the advances of two strippers who offered to “grind the pretty” out of him. He now wants to be exclusive. Much to my surprise, Josh is kind of growing on me.
The other subplots were rather trite. Jeremy goes to Betsy’s house for Thanksgiving and we see the culture clash of his privileged British upbringing and her middle class Americana family. Betsy is aggravated that her entire family still treats her like a child. In the first true insight to his character, Jeremy tells her he wasn’t treated like a child even when he was one.
Danny spends Thanksgiving alone in the office trying to master “Piano Man.” I couldn’t tell if the show was trying to make us think Danny enjoyed the solitude or that he was lonely. And the final image of him texting with his friends to the tune of the Billy Joel classic didn’t really track with the rest of the episode.