As the end of August approaches, we are gearing up for new shows. I usually get excited about this, because there is usually a fresh batch of shows that I go into blindly to laugh, cry, and just enjoy. While last year didn’t provide too many long lasting additions to my regular viewing habits, it did make for a few exciting weeks of TV.
I would just like to say that I am all for the trend of female-centric comedies getting the spotlight. It is only fair. A good show is a good show regardless of race, creed, or sexuality. Utah may not get that, as they refuse to air the New Normal, but that is their loss.
Recently, the Mindy Project made the jump to the internet like so many recent shows. I personally wanted to see what made this show worthwhile. I am not an avid researcher of Mindy Kaling’s career, but I figured she may have something to say, so why not give it a chance?
It only makes me return to the general issue that I have with female-centric comedies, and in general sitcoms. The pilot itself is a mediocre yet pleasant introduction into Mindy’s world as a doctor who tries to fix her life by living life one day at a time. Simple premise, it is hard to mess up.
However, the part that has bothered me is the general character. She isn’t so much annoying as poorly established. The entire opening is dedicated to making her out to be this romantic comedy obsessive who lives life by reciting When Harry Met Sally. Good movie, but the gag doesn’t feel right after it seeps into the rest of the episode.
I also am trying not to compare this general idea to New Girl, which did the exact same thing, but with Dirty Dancing. That show solved the issue and never made Zooey Deschanel overbearing with romantic shtick. However, it feels like Mindy hams in the concepts so much that the episode ends with an analysis on the ending of When Harry Met Sally. Perfectly fine.
However, the issue lies more in that it doesn’t feel like a characteristic and more of a gag. Many characters have the ability to recite pop culture at the drop of the hat (Abed Nadir for one) and make it work. The trouble is that it never feels important here. Sure Mindy is a neurotic woman who cannot land a boyfriend, but when you go off on tangents about Hugh Grant, it is not hard to see why. I just hope that this character gets fleshed out better than what we saw here.
The bigger issue lies in the setting. I have noticed this a lot in the past year of comedies where women cannot function in the work place. Maybe I missed the point, but aren’t these shows supposed to show realism through humor? I get that mishaps at work happen, but let’s run down the list of recent offenders to workplace mishaps.
2 Broke Girls featured the exploits of waitresses Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings as they worked a lousy job in a diner. If you go based off of the pilot alone, Dennings insults her customers with lines about being hipsters and her vagina drying up. I get that this show is supposed to be edgy, but there’s a reason that they are broke. They are clumsy and while their cupcake side business eventually got Martha Stewart’s attention, they messed up a lot of easy steps to get there. The diner scenes were the worst, if just because it was left with the question on how they were still employed. The horny cook and loony manager probably contributed, but that raises another question: how are they still in business?
To sum it up, they may have been edgy, but their depiction as workers was not focused. Sure Behrs had an economic savings plan for the cupcake business, but that wasn’t enough.
Then there was Girls, which was less of an offender in that the personal journey was more interesting than the employment. However, this shouldn’t excuse that Lena Dunham quits an internship when she won’t get paid, botches a good interview by making a rape joke, and gets fired for accusing her boss of sexual harassment when she would have gotten benefits. She now works at a coffee shop , showing up late and wanting to leave early. She is a lousy worker, too. She says that she’s a writer, but gives into peer pressure and is swayed to produce garbage to be deep. She is insecure. In reality, the humor for this comes from awkward failure and this is more endearing than Kat Dennings yelling at hipsters during every opening of 2 Broke Girls.
But still, I’d like to see some success somewhere in this entire run. The only stand out is Allison Williams, who has a job as a secretary for an art exposition company. We vaguely see her answering phones and at a party for the company, but little else. She is apt as an employee is all that I can draw from this.
Then there’s Betsy Sodaro on the upcoming Animal Practice. She doesn’t get much screen time, but she is almost the juvenile cousin of this batch. I have problems with a hospital in which employees bet on turtle races and Bobby Lee gets choked by a snake. While Sodaro is supposed to be an ex-felon, and her rude side reflects that, she is more obnoxious than anything.
In her brief screen time, she makes dirty jokes about cleaning penguin’s butts and stating obvious emotional beats that the lead Justin Kirk is supposed to be having. She is more or less annoying and probably going to be played for mentally slow jokes. This is all from the pilot, so things can change. However, she is one of the lesser problems of Animal Practice, which doesn’t even have a plausible reason for existing.
Which brings me back to the Mindy Project. Why can’t we get a comedy where the woman isn’t a total wreck? Admittedly Mindy has some stability in her life, though I don’t get how she is a doctor. I think that they aimed too high by making her a doctor, which is a reliable job.
Let’s just go over things that happen in the pilot. She gets arrested for driving a bike into a pool as well as other accounts of misconduct. She makes out with someone in an office, thus destroying a model of a pelvis. She runs from a cab to get to her office in time to deliver a baby. She may be on call, but she is willing to ignore it to go on a date with Ed Helms.
Such a problematic set up. If she had a lesser job, this could plausibly work. However, the fact that she has a job that requires a certain amount of focus and precision and still manages to do such foolish things is baffling. Why do you have a doctor that is getting arrested for driving a bike into a pool?
I don’t hate the Mindy Project as much as I wonder why women purposefully make themselves look bad. I get that there is supposed to be self-deprecation, but at some point you need to be a plausible lead. Mindy is a little too ambitiously meta here, and it is distracting. Of course, this is a pilot, so things may be fixed…
But if we have to watch her get arrested again, I cannot help but hope that Stephen Tobolowsky is smart enough to bring her practice into question. I am not trying to be sexist when I state that there are males that are very problematic and aren’t nearly as incompetent as these people. I’m not asking for a clean sweep, but I want one show to be able to say “We’re gonna make it after all,” and not trip over their own feet.