Mindy Kaling believes in the power of the rom-com. The world of The Mindy Project, Kaling's great sitcom that FOX just picked for a second season, isn't a romantic comedy world. But the humor of the show comes from Mindy's expectation that those same rom-com rules will apply. Unlike in the movies, when Mindy uses the unrealistic traditions of romantic comedies to take her own romantic risks, the results are hilarious, ridiculous, painful, and embarrassing.
Onscreen, young women of color with immigrant parents are often far from traditional. Consider All-American Girl's Margaret Kim (Margaret Cho), Grey's Anatomy's Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), The Office's Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling), and Elementary's Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). Though these characters' parents are from various socioeconomic backgrounds and countries of origin, these young women all strive to balance their parents' expectations with their own expectations against the backdrop of society's often sexist and racist assumptions. And though these are some of my favorite characters on television, their experiences often veer from those of real-life second-generation immigrant women.
On the New Girl episode "Table 34," Cece (Hannah Simone) attends an Indian marriage convention hoping to meet an Indian guy for a long-term relationship. She had been with lovable douchebag Schmidt (Max Greenfield) but wants to date someone whom her Indian-born parents will approve of. When her friends hear about the convention, they decide that they want to check it out, too—though only Schmidt dresses like, in Winston's words, "the fortune teller in Big." At the convention, she has to fill out an application including her resume. The event hostess seats her at Table 34, which is clearly the losers' table. Has there been some mistake? The event organizer says, "Over 30 [years old], no advanced degrees, part-time employment. Table 34." Cece replies that she's a professional model, "I was in Lil Wayne's last video. I was the girl he was throwing strawberries at in slow motion?" The woman says, "Definitely Table 34."
Fashion model Cece is downwardly mobile compared to her parents, but she hopes that landing an Indian man will help her gain their approval.
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?).
Sure, it's summer and that means you're more likely to find me streaming old episodes of Pretty Little Liars on my laptop than watching a season premiere (no, YOU stayed up until 2:00 last night to find out what happened at the dance-a-thon!), but the fall shows are only two short months away, with them comes the Mindy Project.
Check out this new promo for the show, where Mindy talks work/life balance while walking through the hospital where she is a doctor: