I'm tempted to throw a lot of tags at The Mindy Project: Season One. Former Office-player Mindy Kaling's sitcom draws on a rich history of romantic comedies from both the big and small screen, and somehow I have little doubt that descriptions calling the show a 21st-century take on "That Girl" or a modern "Mary Tyler Moore" would be ones Kaling would object to. Courting such comparisons is likely even be intentional. The Mindy Project is at once backwards looking and forward thinking, and if there is any justice, it will propel its very funny writer and star into new levels of fame.
The project that The Mindy Project undertakes, as the name implies, is Mindy herself. Having grown up loving movies like When Harry Met Sally... and Pretty Woman, Mindy has struggled with how a grown woman can make the fantasy world of rom-coms line up with dating in the big city. Mindy is an OB/GYN, running her own practice with two male partners, Danny (Chris Messina, who was in pretty much everything released in the last 18 months) and Jeremy (Ed Weeks), a guy's guy from Staten Island and a ladies man from England. Much of the first season's collection of episodes focuses on how Mindy navigates her relationships with these men and her other co-workers while also trying and failing with various gentleman callers, including a douchey sports agent (Tommy Dewey) and a too-cool-for-school preacher (Anders Holm, Workaholics).
Lots of guest stars pop in and out of The Mindy Project: Season One, including comedy heavy hitters like Bill Hader and Seth Rogen, Girls-actress Allison Williams, Chloë Sevigny, Eva Amurri Martino (Californication), Mark and Jay Duplass, and Kaling's former Officemates Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, and BJ Novak (who also produces and directs several episodes). Each are perfectly matched to their respective roles and end up providing stronger support than your average stunt casting. Yet, it's the excellent ensemble cast that really brings the funny from week to week. Kaling has surrounded herself with extremely capable actors, all of whom provide laughs and support without pulling the attention in the wrong direction.
Still, it's Kaling herself who really shines. The actress shows an exceptional level of self-awareness, playing on both her strong points and her insecurities in a way that makes for a central character likable enough that you are rooting for her even as she does some extremely stupid things. Yes, comedy comes from her mistakes, but there is nothing mean-spirited or humiliating about the scenarios. Even when Kaling highlights her body issues, it's not self-pitying or harsh. The Mindy character is a refreshingly complex portrayal of a young career woman. Plus, Kaling celebrates herself more often than not, proving self-doubt and self-hatred don't have to be the same thing.
The Mindy Project is not without its problems. Season One is a bit of a project itself, with characters moving in and out as the producers mix and match to find the right combination. Several players from the first half of the season, including Stephen Tobolowsky as Mindy's boss and Mindy's initial on-air BFF, are gone by the second half, replaced with a couple of new BFFs and a male nurse (Ike Barinholtz, MadTV) prone to saying inappropriate things. Barinholtz initially operates at a level far more exaggerated than his teammates, but by season's end, he has settled into his function, as has all the cast. I don't think it would be a stretch to predict that The Mindy Project will likely be starting out in the same groove in the second season as it found at the end of the first.
Which should suit the show, and this viewer, just fine. TV needs more smart, quirky, genuinely funny sitcoms like The Mindy Project, and the more this crew is in its comfort zone, the more I'll enjoy watching.
All 24-episodes are spread across three discs, and they are presented in anamorphic widescreen in the show's broadcast aspect ratio, 1.78:1. The image is crisp and the colors are nicely rendered, looking every bit as good as one should expect from a contemporary television show. Episodes can be watched in a row using a "play all" function or chosen one at a time.
The original soundtrack gets two different Dolby mixes, 5.1 and 2.0. The multichannel mix is pretty good, with some interplay between the front and back, though nothing too showy or persistent.
English Closed Captioning is also available .
The Mindy Project: Season One is housed in a standard DVD case with a hinged tray to allow for all three discs. An episode guide is printed on the inside cover, visible through the clear plastic. There is also an outer slipcover.
Each disc has a handful of deleted scenes relating to the episodes on that disc. These tend to be pretty funny, and often show character moments or story directions they ultimately did not explore.
The Mindy Project is one of the freshest sitcoms to emerge on network television in recent memory. Its creator and star, Mindy Kaling, is a true original, playing around with romantic-comedy tropes while building an involving, consistently hilarious cast of characters that you can laugh with and become invested in. The writing is smart and the wit sharp, but the show also gets it right when it flips between other extremes. The occasional gross-out gag lands just as well as the deeper emotional moments. In short, The Mindy Project: Season One is a funny, honest take on contemporary dating and city living. Highly Recommended.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.