Wednesday February 20, 2013
Harry (still hasnít) met Mindy
ON THE AIR By S. INDRAMALAR
Thereís a lot to love about The Mindy Project Ė the premise is not new, but the approach is fresh.
IíM not quite sure what it is I love the most about The Mindy Project, a new sitcom created by and starring Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor from The Office).
The show revolves around Dr Mindy Lahiri (Kaling), a 31-year-old OBGYN who is hopelessly addicted to romance, living on a steady diet of Sandra Bullock and Meg Ryan-type romantic comedies.
Lahiri isnít like many high-profile career women you find on TV Ė you know, the ambitious, formidable types who have no time for silly romantic entanglements. Women like Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) or Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in Veep. No, Lahiri is ALL ABOUT romantic entanglements. Sheís 31 and she wants her When Harry Met Sally moment, dammit ... and sheís not afraid to go looking for it.
In the pilot episode, we see Lahiri giving a drunken (and embarrassing) toast at her ex-boyfriendís wedding (the jerk dumped her for a younger blonde woman!) before riding off on a bicycle and ending up at the bottom of a swimming pool where she has an existential conversation ... with a sunken Barbie doll.
Barbie tells her to get it together: ďIf you donít pull it together, no one will ever love you.Ē
Crazy? Over the top? Bizarre? Funny? Yes, yes, yes and yes. The show and its leading lady are all those things and more. (Incidentally, if you were not impressed by the pilot, keep watching because the show gets way better, fast. As for Lahiriís fast-talking banter, well, that gets to be charming too. It does.)
Letís be brutally honest: Kaling isnít your typical Hollywood leading lady Ė first of all, sheís Indian. Also, sheís a little heavier than your typical Hollywood star.
Sure, thereís been an Indian invasion of sorts on TV of late: thereís Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) on The Big Bang Theory, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) on The Good Wife, Padma Lahari (Dilshad Vadsaria) on Revenge (Season 2), Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty) on Royal Pains, Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) on Heroes and Dev Sundaram (Raza Jaffrey) on Smash just to name (more than) a few.
These characters were, in most cases, stereotyped: the Indian accent, the arranged marriage, the curry references, the Bollywood sequences. Thereís none of that with Kaling and thatís just wonderful. Itís fabulous, really. Sheís just a character.
And then there is the issue with size. Sure, Melissa McCarthy is a large woman and sheís achieved some level of success on TV (Mike and Molly) and on the big screen (Bridesmaids) but hey, arenít there endless references to her size on both these shows? As there was with Roseanne.
With Lahiri, weight isnít even an issue. Sheís a confident woman Ė a doctor Ė who isnít bashful about wearing bandage dresses and short, figure-skimming skirts. Bravo!
Sure, her obnoxious colleague Dr Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) tells her she could lose a few pounds, but sheís not really bothered. There isnít a breakdown moment or anything. Sheís confident and unapologetic about her narcissistic and shallow wants in life.
And thatís where a lot of the comedy comes from: Lahiriís unrealistic expectations of herself that just donít pan out in reality. She isnít likely to find a character like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman: someone who will drive up to her apartment in a white limousine with flowers and sweep her away. Itís just not going to happen. Only, she doesnít realise it ... yet.
Having overcome the barriers of race and size, Kalingís character is free to be herself: a highly capable doctor with a slightly catastrophic personal life.
The showís strength isnít just Lahiri, however. Even though the pilot largely revolves around its protagonist, subsequent episodes flesh out the roles of the supporting characters, making The Mindy Project quite a nice workplace comedy with a captivating ensemble cast.
There is Danny, the macho, serious guy whoís just been through a messy divorce (there are some sparks between him and Lahiri, though the two are often poking fun at each otherís flaws); Dr Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks), a suave, handsome Brit with whom Lahiri had a brief romp; and Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz), a male nurse who went to prison for grand theft auto but has now reformed.
The characters aside, what makes this show pop is the writing. The premise isnít completely original (the single working woman looking for love, that love-hate tension with a co-worker, etc) but it appears fresh because of the writing (one-liners that not only zing but are genuinely funny).
Yeah, I think I am quite sure about what I love about The Mindy Project: everything!
■ The Mindy Project airs on Diva Universal (Astro Ch 702) every Thursday at 8.55pm