I’ve loved Mindy Kaling since she was on The Office. I own her first memoir. I listened to her second earlier this year. I watched The Mindy Project for the three years it was on Fox, and when it was cancelled I was sad, and joyful when it was picked up by Hulu. But then there was the matter of actually getting around to watching a streaming show, because that’s the problem. The shows are always there, so what’s the rush to watch them now? Well, it turns out that part of the motivation is when you see everyone else talking about a particular program. Right now the show that everyone is freaking out about is Stranger Things on Netflix, and I’ll get there. Eventually. But the choices and the time investment are crazy, so if I like I show, I’ll watch it. And I’ll watch all of them in a row over the course of a few weeks.
Hulu did an interesting thing though with The Mindy Project – they could have released it all at once for nerds like me to binge, but they didn’t. Instead they continued with releasing one episode per week, just like a broadcast television series. This doesn’t stop nerds like me from forgetting about a show (or getting caught up in something else), and then bingeing and catching up later. That’s what I did with the first half of the season which aired in the fall. But this spring when it returned….I also forgot. But not as long! Instead, I caught up with a couple episodes left before the finale.
Did you watch the show before season 4? If not, there’s not really enough room in one short review to sum up precisely. But what you need to know is that Dr. Mindy Lahiri works as an OB/GYN, she’s great at her job, and she fell in love with one of the fellow doctors at her practice, Dr. Danny Castellano. Mindy got pregnant, they had a baby together, they got engaged. Somewhere along the line Mindy started a new fertility practice that works with those who need help having babies, but also caters to young women hoping to freeze their eggs. Danny didn’t like that she worked so hard, and wanted to have more kids right away, and Mindy wanted to be a working mother. So they broke up at the beginning of the most recent part of season 4.
Watching this situation on televison – people who used to be in love, and have a child together, but aren’t married isn’t too unusual. We had that same situation on Friends more than a decade ago. The difference here is that you’re seeing a slightly different angle. I mean, we all knew that Rachel “had a baby” on Friends, but apart from the episode about finding a Nanny, I don’t think there was ever any discussion about the problematic life of being a working single mother. About having to make sacrifices for your child. About how you occasionally have to take over for the other parent, and they aren’t always magically watching your kid when you want to go on a date.
And the dating part is what makes the Mindy Project so good. Mindy Kaling herself has watched so many of the romantic comedies, that she’s able to skewer the tropes with perfect ease. And yet there have still been issues with Mindy, and how this is done. She seems to date pretty much only white dudes, and there’s been some backlash against this, since Mindy is a woman of color. But yet again, the show took the criticism, and turned it into an episode that touched on that issue, and even more complicated topics of heritage and cultural identity. But the romantic comedy trope of people who don’t like each other, and then fight and fall in love seems to be happening for a SECOND TIME in this show, which…I don’t know how I feel about it. Didn’t we cover that ground already? Are there no new ideas in the world?
You might think based on that last comment, that I might have decided to stop watching the show. The chances of being totally cut off are slim, unless they do continue down the road of fight-romance-breakup in a way that feels tired. But the thing that really keeps me coming back for more Mindy is her competency. She’s so good at her job. She’s an excellent OB/GYN, even though she doesn’t do as much of that work anymore. She’s terrific at her fertility practice, helping those who need her help, but also finding a niche market, and working the angle that you don’t need to have kids right away, especially if you want to focus on your career – something she can speak to personally. It’s refreshing to see this combination of competence and acumen all rolled into one – and in a character that can seem like an airhead at first glance. As long as Mindy continues to defy personal and professional expectations of herself…I’ll be there, watching to see what she gets up to next.
Details: The Mindy Project, streaming on Hulu Plus