The Mindy Project (FOX)
Premiered September 25 at 9:30pm
There’s something about knowing that a performer is writing his or her own material that makes it inherently more endearing. With Lena Dunham and Louis C.K. notably recognized at the Emmy Awards for creating their own series, it’s about time a broadcast network player got into the game as well. Enter Mindy Kaling, who has been a creative force behind the scenes on “The Office” for years now and is finally getting a vehicle of her won. The danger of featuring such a clutch ensemble player in a lead role is that she might be given too much attention, but Kaling does a superb job of crafting her character. Starting with the romanticization of romantic comedies, this is the necessary meltdown episode for her on-screen alter ego, who needs to go down to come back and start her life over in a positive way. The flurry of pop culture references and over-analysis of each situation is extremely entertaining, and Kaling knows how to deliver her material with just the right energy and intonation. I’m delighted to see the multi-talented Chris Messina as her workplace rival, eager to go head-to-head with her in a competitive conversation but also capable of being a decent guy, as evidenced by their episode-ending conversation. Anna Camp, Richard Schiff, and Stephen Tobolowsky will all hopefully be put to better use in future weeks, and while this pilot isn’t overly creative, it’s still funny, and a strong indicator that this particular project will in fact prove wholly worthwhile.
How will it work as a series? Mindy’s personal and professional life are going to clash repeatedly since, as she points out, she talks a lot and can’t avoid causing drama. Looking for the right guy, sleeping with the wrong guy, and bantering with another guy should make things plenty amusing as eccentric patients of all sorts come her way.
How long will it last? While the show’s numbers weren’t quite as high as those of “Raising Hope” in this timeslot last year, the ratings were still positive, and I think that FOX is going to want to support Kaling and her series. Positive reviews for the show only help, and I suspect that this will be one of the season’s first renewals.
Pilot grade: B+