Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kelly's New Office

By Meg Walter

Tonight The Mindy Project premieres on Fox. I watched the pilot while it was on Hulu for a brief period and I found it promising. Perfect? No. But no pilot is. It usually take at least half a season, if not a whole for a new series to hit its stride, understand its characters and find its pace. So it's no surprise that The Mindy Project has a few kinks to work out, but there is some real potential in the premise and the characters.

Mindy Kaling plays Mindy Lahiri, an OBGYN who is great at her job and bad at love. It may sound like every other show with a woman in the lead role currectly on television, but The Mindy Project manages to make it feel fresh. In the first few minutes of the first episode we witness Mindy's meet-cute with Bill Hader, only to cut to his wedding reception celebrating his marriage to another woman. Mindy gives an embarrassing drunken speech, the first in a series of events that leads to a soaking Mindy in a police interrogation. The show takes off from there with a tone of both self deprication and blissful confidence (she asks for a tour of the Special Victims Unit before leaving the station).

Chris Messina. who you may recognize from Vicky Christina Barcelona and Julie & Julia, is really great as fellow doctor Danny Castellano. The stand out scene of the pilot is an exchange of insults between Mindy and Danny regarding women's fashion. It's no-holds-barred as Mindy claims that a divorced man doesn't understand women or their clothing, and Danny tells her to lose fifteen pounds. It serves as a good example of Mindy Kahling, not only the star of the show but the head writer as well, being comfortable in her own skin and willing to joke about the color and size of it.

In Interviews I've heard and read, Kaling is careful to say that she wants to be known for being a great comedy writer. Not a great Indian writer, not a great woman writer, just a great writer. That's not to say she won't use her race or gender for material. She just won't position herself as a role model to other Indians or other women. She wants to a role model to writers.

And perhaps that attitude is the reason I want The Mindy Project to do well. I want Mindy to do well. Her brilliance brought us the constintly great Kelly Kapoor, even in the last few faltering season of The Office. Her writing gave us some of the best episodes of The Office, including "The Dundies", "The Injury" and "Niagara." It's obvious that Kaling understands comedy and has the chops to pull off a show of her own. I expect great things.

Meg Walter writes about television to justify watching so darn much of it. When she's not on her couch letting her brain turn to jello she's blogging at tobetomars.blogspot.com, playing with her baby girl, or beating her husband in board games.

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