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Five Things to Love About The Mindy Project Pilot

As a 30-year-old, pop culture-loving, unmarried, short, dark-haired, bookish woman who loves to drink champagne and wear sequins, I'd have to change my name to Mindy if I wanted to fit any more squarely into The Mindy Project's target demographic. The show, which premieres September 25th but whose pilot is currently streaming on Hulu, stars creator Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN who loves rom coms and fancies herself in the self-improvement montage part of life. Like its charming-yet-flawed protagonist, there are many things to love about this show (and a few things to just tolerate because, hey, it's generally likable and it's trying hard and everyone deserves a little slack now and then, right?).

promo photo of the cast of the Mindy Project

Mindy Kaling is a delight.
If you read and liked Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? you will probably like The Mindy Project. In fact, some of the jokes in the pilot episode are straight from the pages of Kaling's book, but if you laughed the first time like I did, you'll probably laugh during the second round too. Kaling herself is charismatic and relatable as Dr. Lahiri, and she pulls off lines like, "Are you kidding me? I'm basically Sandy Bullock!" while drunk on a bicycle where other, more precious performers might fail. (She even says during that pilot that she's not, "like, precious or anything." Thank God.) Also, though it might be obvious, it's nice to see a woman of color with a (somewhat) atypical-for-Hollywood body leading a sitcom and getting tons of dates with cute guys out of the deal.

The love interests aren't *that* bad.
The temptation in a Grey's Anatomy/Scrubs/Doctor Show sitcom starring a single lady, I'd imagine, would be to either make the single lady sad and desperate or to make her male suitors loutish jerks. So far, The Mindy Project is balancing the two extremes quite nicely. Lahiri is indeed single (and somewhat clueless), but most of the time she seems to enjoy the casual hookups and fun first dates singledom brings. The single men in her life, two coworkers and a blind date played by Ed Helms, are mostly cute and funny, if also kinda clueless. Anyone who's seen Bridget Jones' Diary knows that things aren't going to last with Lahiri and her sex buddy, the dashing and British Dr. Reed, but Lahiri herself has seen Bridget Jones' Diary and makes a Hugh Grant joke about Reed before you can. That *wink wink* rom-com irony could get annoying in later episodes, but so far it's just fun.

Dr. Lahiri is a good OB/GYN
Toward the end of the pilot, we get to see Lahiri deliver a baby, and it's clear she knows what she's doing. This is refreshing, because a show like this could just as easily have a screw-up at the helm. That premise may be funny on The Office (where Kaling got her start), but I for one am glad that the lead of The Mindy Project has her professional shit together. It's awesome to watch a woman kick ass at work, and it makes her drunken date scenes that much funnier!

The characters are self-deprecating without overdoing it.
When Lahiri asks a server at a restaurant, "Do you know how difficult it is for a chubby 31-year old to go on a legit date with a guy who majored in economics at Duke?!" we laugh, because we know she's in on the joke. These characters are self-deprecating, but they don't hate themselves.

It's feminist friendly!
Le Tigre during a transitional scene? MIA during a work montage? Plenty of female characters who seem to genuinely like and support Dr. Lahiri and each other? The Mindy Show gives feminists plenty to appreciate, if only because so many other network shows completely miss the mark. Whether Dr. Lahiri is a dyed-in-the-wool feminist like Leslie Knope or Liz Lemon is yet to be determined, but in an age where bros come before just about anyone else on TV, I'll take a female doctor with lady friends and coworkers any day.

But...
The show is far from perfect. There were a few uncomfortable scenes where characters attempt hipster racism and fail (assuming a woman in a hijab has "oil money"?), and some of the dating jabs were too far below the belt for my taste. Also, so far everyone appears to be straight, and Mindy's best friend (played by Anna Camp) is kinda one-note, that note being "has a kid." Still, this was only the pilot, and there's always room for improvement. I'll be tuning in for future episodes, and I suggest fellow Kaling fans throw on a sequin shirt, grab a bottle of champagne, and join me.

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Comments

15 comments have been made. Post a comment.

She didn't say she wasn't

She didn't say she wasn't precious, she responded to a crack about her weight saying "I'm not Precious or anything" which kind of bugged me. Also the whole thing of her complaining about having poor patients of color and asking the receptionists to send her rich, white patients seemed a bit off. Like the character never met any wealthy Asians or other people of color? I hope later in the season she will have an Indian friend or even an Indian date.

As far as the sexual attitudes, I really hope future episodes reveal more complexity. In the pilot, she seemed hung up on the idea that she has to choose between sexy fun and a serious relationship with marriage potential. Someone needs to send her that Dan Savage column about people who had successful LTR's with people who started as a quickie hook-up.

Still, at a time when there are very few scripted shows featuring a main character who doesn't fit into the Barbie mold, it's good to have a show like this providing some diversity. Plus Kaling has a very appealing screen presence and a great sense of timing.

There are also white

There are also white undocumented immigrants, and documented immigrants and Americans of all races who do not have health insurance. And, even if you're enlightened enough to know that wealthy people of color and immigrants exist, turning away people without health insurance is just plain wrong.
I took it as a critique of the medical institution, where you can turn away someone who clearly needs help on the basis of their legal status and their access to health insurance.

Don't Dan Savage columns

Don't Dan Savage columns sometimes more closely represent the exceptional? I got the sense Kaling is trying to rep for all the single ladies, and nothing about the sexual relationships in this episode struck a wrong note with me (and I'm sure wouldn't with most of my friends). I've pretty much accepted that sexy fun without time investment is probably not going to turn into anything else.

"not, like, precious or anything."

I would make a strong argument that the "not, like, precious or anything" quote is really supposed to be "not, like, Precious or anything." It's made in relation to Mindy talking about her own weight/appearance, where she's comparing herself to the character in the Sapphire novel/film.

This behavior squarely sets this show in the the "meh" area for me. I hope it succeeds, because Mindy Kaling is a talented writer, but I think it's feminist merits leave plenty to be desired. I mean as if "single, successful professional seeks marriage" wasn't a hard enough premise to swallow.

I don't understand what about

I don't understand what about that premise is hard to swallow.

Mindy something or other.

It seemed to be 22 minutes of whining about being short, dumpy, ethnic and unmarried. Basically a forced snooze fest. I only watched it to see Ed Helms who stole the show in his few minutes on screen. Next!

Oops!

I TOTALLY misheard that Precious comment! I thought she was talking about the adjective "precious" and, since I agreed, I wrote it down in my TV notes. Yikes! It sounds so different now that I realize what she meant!

I'm still going to watch future episodes, but that comment leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Especially since I thought she was talking about something completely different (and way better)! Must've been wishful thinking. Sigh.

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Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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Oh, I thought she was saying

Oh, I thought she was saying she wasn't, "like, Precious, or anything", which made me think "You should be so lucky! Gabourey Sidibe is awesome." I also don't love or relate to the whole "being single is such a tragedy" thing, but I do find Mindy completely charming and really enjoyed the pilot (with the exception of the points you note). For me, the best thing was how much of Nora Ephron tribute it was. :)

Rape jokes

I just have to point out that as a feminist I have always had a problem with Mindy Kaling continuing to insist on making rape jokes. I her in behind the scenes interviews about The Office stating proudly she's written jokes for that show involving rape. At the risk of sounding like a humorless feminist, it really shocks and disgusts me when her character Kelly makes light of rape (particularly knowing that Mindy played a role in writing the script). A rape joke was present in her pilot and promotional trailer when the officer tells her something to the effect of, "being drunk and disorderly is raping peace and quiet." I'm not saying Mindy Kaling necessarily has an obligation to represent feminists in this show, but I feel that subject matter for jokes should be addressed in a feminist critique of the pilot.
Nevertheless I thought the show was pretty funny, and I plan to keep watching. Mindy Kaling without a doubt is a talented writer and actor.

Kind of agree

When you mentioned this I went back to immediately watch the pilot and wondered why the rape joke would fly over my head. I believe the Officer went something like "You are a rapist of peace and quiet" BUT Mindy's character then preceded to respond to the quip with a disapproving face and "That's a little bit...", and so for that I am giving her the benefit that she doesn't actually condone rape jokes. Although, considering this isn't an isolated incident I'm left feeling a bit uncomfortable. Kaling is an intelligent woman, and from what I've seen, she does seem to love women herself. I hope she doesn't continue this rape joke streak.

lol-Eastern Europeans have bad teeth and are war criminals!

Other than that, I thought the show was pretty funny.

Omg, you are a complete

Omg, you are a complete idiot.

Everybody, CALM DOWN!

AMEN! Thank you! These people all need to take a step back and cool off. If you don't like it don't watch it. If you do like it don't slam it online.

were we watching the same show?

frankly, i was extremely disappointed with the pilot, especially as a huge Mindy Kaling fan. i thought there were a number of hugely misogynistic themes and jokes on the show, and i found it to be unsettling.
---all the good you do by casting a woman of color with a more relatable body type is erased when that woman refers to herself as chubby/ugly. Tina Fey does the same thing on 30 rock, from the standpoint of a white/thin woman, which also makes no sense. Why does every smart woman on television have to make self-deprecating jokes about their fabricated unattractiveness? it does nothing but hurt the collective female body image.
---the jokes about not wanting poor/immigrant patients were disturbing
---the segment when she tries on her date outfit for her "hilarious" misogynist doctor friend, only to have him tell her she looks dumb in her sequined outfit (as Naomi Wolf would say, women like glitter and men don't, because it's the loudest, most aggressive aesthetic choice they can make), and the voila! she changes into a sexy dress as per the bro's advice for her date.
Although there were a number of funny moments, there were too many anti-women moments for me to enjoy the show.

The Chubby Comment

I don't believe that Kaling's line about being chubby is enough to erase the fact that she is a smart, charismatic, women of color. I saw the comment as just a moment of weakness, a moment of weakness that most people have when they are single, and not getting any offers. Also another thing to look at is the relationship between her ex, and the fact that he married a women that is the "stereotypical trophy wife (thin, blonde, and white)." So resentment from being interrupted from a good date married with the fact that her ex has a trophy wife in my opinion warrant that funny line. The thing that gets me is the fact that she NEEDS a man. I get wanting a partner, but the struggle is so important it annoys me during this episode. I want Mindy the character to realize that she is great, she doesn't need a partner. If he happens to come along that doesn't mean she was any less great before him.