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TV Review | ‘The Mindy Project’ sticks to old formula

Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 08:01

“The Mindy Project” (2012-present) doesn’t like to waste time. The winter premiere fast forwarded through Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s (Mindy Kaling) new relationship with handsome lawyer Cliff (Glenn Howerton) by documenting their many firsts: first kiss, first time having sex, first late-night conversation — you get the picture. This progression, however, comes to a halt once Cliff asks Mindy to go on a ski trip — what would be their first vacation. One might expect this to be an exciting prospect, but Mindy is more worried than thrilled. This trip will be the first time Cliff sees her in a bikini — and our resident OB/GYN does not relish this idea.

As fans of the show will know, Mindy has established herself as a curvaceous, confident and fashionable woman. Season one covered much of her love life, including boyfriends, dates and one-night stands, so it’s easy to understand that the show — in its second season — is now focusing on Mindy finding “the one.” What is not too subtle, however, is that “the one” may in fact be the guy in the next office, Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). Instead of developing Mindy’s new relationship with Cliff, this episode focuses on how Mindy’s relationship with Danny has evolved. 

Mindy hires Danny as her new personal trainer to help her look sexy in a bikini for her upcoming trip. In order to motivate his coworker-turned-trainee, Danny appeals to her interests by creating scenarios in which her exercising will save celebrities. “Anne Hathaway’s trapped under a car and you gotta push her out,” he humorously barks at Mindy during one episode.

In season one and early season two, Danny would have chosen a tougher and more macho way to motivate Mindy, but now we see that he has grown to like and even care for her. There is even a moment where he apologizes for his harshness — something that he would never have done in the show’s early days.

This episode, however, is strangely structured: the audience barely gets to see Cliff as a boyfriend. Mindy’s past boyfriends were well-developed: viewers could easily decide whether they liked them or not. In the current storyline, however, it seems that Cliff is just a placeholder boyfriend — a status that is unlikely to change until fans get their wish of seeing Danny and Mindy together. The way things are shaping up, this plotline seems straight out of “When Harry Met Sally” (1989).

What about the other characters in the show? They’re still around, but it would appear that with each episode, characters other than Mindy and Danny are getting fewer and fewer lines and less time on screen. The storyline in which Peter (Adam Pally) takes over Jeremy’s (Ed Weeks) job of managing the office feels contrived and forced. It seems to be there only to fill airtime while Mindy and Danny to hang out at the gym.

The interactions between Peter and Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) aren’t very effective as both characters serve the same purpose — being the goofy member of the cast. It is a little tiring to see these two characters banter, and in the end, they are both fairly underdeveloped. The writers have not allowed Morgan and Peter to become distinct characters with their own personalities.

The other women in the show are not particularly well-rounded, fleshed-out roles either. Viewers have already seen the departure of Mindy’s best friend Gwen (Anna Camp), and it will be a shame if the show continues to lack strong female characters other than the very feisty Mindy Lahiri herself.

“The Mindy Project” will be going on hiatus between Jan. 28 and April 1 due to low ratings. Despite being in its second season, viewership has steadily declined and the flurry of guest stars hasn’t resulted in a much-desired ratings boost. Improved character development and perhaps fewer guests may help with the show’s growth. It’s possible that fewer people are tuning in because they feel that each episode has the same formula: Mindy meets a man, Danny gets more jealous with each new boyfriend, Mindy and Danny get even closer, Mindy breaks up with man and Danny comforts her until a new boyfriend is found. Hopefully when April 1 gets here, “The Mindy Project” will be back on track with new, fresh storylines.

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