This coming week on The Mindy Project, we learn once and for all that Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) has really lame friends — and not just because they buy her sadistic birthday presents like Microwave Cooking for One. The truth is, Mindy should ditch them. And by Mindy, I mean Kaling, the comedy’s creator, because without their dud weight, her Project could become the hilarious, smart, original show that it is meant to be — and almost is.
For the uninitiated: Mindy shares an ob-gyn office with curmudgeonly Danny (the flawless Chris Messina), smarmy Jeremy (Ed Weeks), and some kooky support staffers (notably the brilliant Ike Barinholtz’s ex-con male nurse, Morgan). When she punches out, Mindy hangs with her bestie in the burbs (a miscast Anna Camp) and various guys she dates and/or tries to have meaningless sex with. Confused as to whether it’s a workplace comedy or a sitcom about a thirtysomething sorting out her messy personal life? You’re not alone. Kaling throws a lot of comedic pasta at the wall to see what will stick.
Luckily, plenty does — though mostly with Mindy’s work gang. Kaling has created a perfectly imperfect alter ego who can be unlikable, earnest, enthusiastic, adorable, idiotic, paranoid, mushy, and cocky. Her observations on everything from friendship (”Best friend isn’t a person…it’s a tier”) to pop culture (”Wouldn’t Prince Harry’s Instagram be so cool?”) to dating (”People seem to be having, like, these awesome sex lives and I’m just trying to find a life partner to go apple-picking with”) are some of the sharpest on TV. Her terrific, combative chemistry with Messina’s Danny is the show’s heart, though I hope the rom-com-loving Kaling doesn’t plan to hook them up. They are TV’s best bet to inherit the Liz Lemon–Jack Donaghy legacy of affectionate yet disdainful respect. (See: Danny calling Mindy’s favorite movie When Doofus Met Dummy, while she imagines his apartment is ”like a smoky speakeasy where old men go to complain about technology.”)
Both Kaling and Lahiri would probably relish that comparison to Tina Fey. (TV Mindy claims she’s leaving everything she owns to the icon because she’d ”spend it in interesting and responsible ways.”) And the similarities between the two shows are fitting. After all, 30 Rock wasn’t perfect its first season either. B+