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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

TV Rewind | The Mindy Project: When a sweet, simple rom-com goes awry

The Mindy Project started wavering in the second season, and while that was easy to adjust with, it was a different show by the time we got to the fourth season.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: June 28, 2020 3:28:24 pm
tv rewind mindy kaling Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project kicked off on the right foot but eventually lost its way.

Mindy Kaling is often regarded as a voice that needs to be recognised in a racially biased world as her perspective as a woman of colour makes content more inclusive and sensitive. But back when The Mindy Project came out, the world wasn’t as woke as it is today. So, what we got in the name of diversity was a feeble attempt of a network trying to diversify its slate of shows.

Don’t get me wrong, The Mindy Project started quite well. But as the seasons went on, the quality of the show created by Mindy Kaling deteriorated so much that it was hard to continue watching the episodes.

What was The Mindy Project all about?

The show’s protagonist is Mindy Lahiri, played by Kaling, who works as a gynaecologist and is trying to juggle her work and personal life. In the first season, we are told that she believes in rom-coms and wants her life to be like one. She is also an extremely talented doctor.

mindy kaling the mindy project The Mindy Kaling show had its heart in the right place in the first two seasons.

Of course, we get multiple love interests, some friendships outside of work (which are completely forgotten after Season 1), some work friendships (which linger on for longer than we wished), and a family that’s only introduced for a short while.

What works for The Mindy Project?

As the Mindy Project premiered in 2012, it was a big deal. Mindy Kaling, a woman of colour, was given a platform to tell the story from a second-generation immigrant’s point of view. Eight years ago, the world was even more brutal so scoring this deal with Fox was a humungous thing for Kaling, and people of Indian descent. The show, in the beginning, made the most out of this.

The best part about The Mindy Project was its ability to put a South Asian woman at the centre of an American television show. The Asian stereotypes on American television have been reinforced with characters like Apu. So to let go of that awful accent and making them more than what is considered a cliche was a win in itself.

In the first couple of seasons, we saw Mindy as a woman who wants to be the Nora Ephron heroine. The show transformed into a workplace comedy with every passing episode, but Mindy’s work never really got the position of the primary story track. It was always her love life, which in hindsight wasn’t so problematic for a show that was essentially a romantic comedy.

Mindy’s will-they-won’t-they chemistry with Chris Messina’s Daniel Castellano (Danny) was cute to watch, and the simmering tension between them held up well, but that was never going to be enough for six seasons.

mindy kaling tv show The central relationship between Mindy and Danny works well in the first couple of seasons.

What does not work for The Mindy Project?

The Mindy Project started wavering in the second season, and while that was easy to adjust with, it was a different show by the time we got to the fourth season.

The frequently changing supporting cast members made it hard to keep track of anyone who had some stake in the story. We usually ended up with Mindy’s world being the only focus, which wasn’t so interesting after a while. The show established Mindy and Danny as the main love story. When a surprise pregnancy comes along to two gynaecologists, you would expect that the show would handle it better, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here.

As if that wasn’t enough, Chris Messina’s eventual exit from the show saw Mindy find new love interests, which was just bizarre. The constant entry and exit of various new characters also did not work in the show’s favour as by then it was impossible to root for anyone.

From being an admirer of classic rom-coms but still living in a real-world, Mindy’s world eventually turned into a badly written rom-com.

What happened to The Mindy Project?

After three seasons of Fox, the show was eventually cancelled but found its place on Hulu for another three seasons. The show ran into some controversy for having a largely caucasian cast, despite Mindy being the central figure. The show was also criticised for not addressing the topic of abortion, even though it was set inside a gynaecologist’s office.

Binge-worthy?

The Mindy Project starts as a romantic comedy that can be taken in short doses, but as the seasons go on, it’s hard to binge it all at once.

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The Mindy Project is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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