For those looking for a show about independent women, “The Mindy Project” is not for you. Its rom-com premise is similar to that of many other shows: a successful woman looking for Mr. Right, who (what do you know?) happens to be a doctor. She also happens to be “man-crazy,” thinking of nothing else but finding the right man.
Fox’s “The Mindy Project” premiered Tuesday, September 25. The first episode begins with a voice-over from Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) as she’s curled up on the couch, watching multiple romance movies. A montage shows Mindy as a child, a teenager, and a college student, constantly fawning over Tom Hanks. The screen then cuts to her present-day self with as a Princeton University graduate with a job as an OB-GYN physician, still searching for the fairytale love. Out of this obsession comes her instant crush on a colleague, which very quickly leads to her detention in jail after a drunken bicycle ride away from the very same colleague’s wedding. She then proclaims that she will “better herself” in order to find the right man.
The show is funny, at times, and has great one-liners, such as when Mindy shouts “racist” at a car that almost runs over her. Its relatable protagonist is also a plus: Mindy Lahiri is an average woman – self-deprecating of her weight, unprofessional as she tries out a first date outfit in the office, and savvy in searching for blind dates on the Internet. The secondary characters, however, are boring and stereotypical. There’s sexy British doctor Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) who consistently hooks up with Mindy. (Honestly, it’s not a spoiler. who wouldn’t expect that?) Co-worker Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) is another cliché, a doctor who simultaneously annoys and flirts with Mindy, and is certainly on his way to being another love interest. The rest of the characters are forgettable, due to their lack of screen time.
Though “The Mindy Project” appears to center on Mindy as a professional woman, her job as a physician is barely mentioned. Instead, most of the show is devoted to following her as she tries to find her dream guy. Of the scenes that do show her at work, most are incredibly uncomfortable to watch. In one, Mindy agrees to deliver a Muslim immigrant’s baby at the request of a 12-year-old translator. Afterwards, Mindy corrects her secretary by saying that the immigrant wasn’t made “rich with oil money,” but “poor with nothing money.” She follows this by nodding to her secretary’s scribble of “more white people.”
Another scene features Dr. Castellano, who has a habit of stealing Mindy’s patients, informing her that she needs to lose 15 pounds. This is one of three mentions that Mindy is overweight during the thirty-minute show, despite the fact that she isn’t overweight at all – just not Hollywood’s regular definition of “normal weight.” It seems that as “radical” as “The Mindy Project” might be called, simply for having a woman of color as the star, Kaling still has to resort to racial and fat “jokes” to get laughs.
The entire show is a disappointment, especially since it was thought up by the likes of Mindy Kaling, whose experience working for “The Office” should have prepared her in producing an effectively edgy program. Hopefully, “The Mindy Project” is a work in progress that will only get better. To do so, her characters must come alive on screen, instead of being one-dimensional. A healthy dose of girl power would help, as well, to help female viewers appreciate their own bodies, instead of having to conform to Hollywood standards of being skinny and obsessively looking for love, as Mindy Lahiri does.