As a 30-year-old, pop culture-loving, unmarried, short, dark-haired, bookish woman who loves to drink champagne and wear sequins, I’d have to change my name to Mindy if I wanted to fit any more squarely into The Mindy Project’s target demographic. The show, which premieres September 25th but whose pilot is currently streaming on Hulu, stars creator Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN who loves rom coms and fancies herself in the self-improvement montage part of life. Like its charming-yet-flawed protagonist, there are many things to love about this show (and a few things to just tolerate because, hey, it’s generally likable and it’s trying hard and everyone deserves a little slack now and then, right?).
Mindy Kaling is a delight.
If you read and liked Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? you will probably like The Mindy Project. In fact, some of the jokes in the pilot episode are straight from the pages of Kaling’s book, but if you laughed the first time like I did, you’ll probably laugh during the second round too. Kaling herself is charismatic and relatable as Dr. Lahiri, and she pulls off lines like, “Are you kidding me? I’m basically Sandy Bullock!” while drunk on a bicycle where other, more precious performers might fail. (She even says during that pilot that she’s not, “like, precious or anything.” Thank God.) Also, though it might be obvious, it’s nice to see a woman of color with a (somewhat) atypical-for-Hollywood body leading a sitcom and getting tons of dates with cute guys out of the deal.
The love interests aren’t *that* bad.
The temptation in a Grey’s Anatomy/Scrubs/Doctor Show sitcom starring a single lady, I’d imagine, would be to either make the single lady sad and desperate or to make her male suitors loutish jerks. So far, The Mindy Project is balancing the two extremes quite nicely. Lahiri is indeed single (and somewhat clueless), but most of the time she seems to enjoy the casual hookups and fun first dates singledom brings. The single men in her life, two coworkers and a blind date played by Ed Helms, are mostly cute and funny, if also kinda clueless. Anyone who’s seen Bridget Jones’ Diary knows that things aren’t going to last with Lahiri and her sex buddy, the dashing and British Dr. Reed, but Lahiri herself has seen Bridget Jones’ Diary and makes a Hugh Grant joke about Reed before you can. That *wink wink* rom-com irony could get annoying in later episodes, but so far it’s just fun.
Dr. Lahiri is a good OB/GYN
Toward the end of the pilot, we get to see Lahiri deliver a baby, and it’s clear she knows what she’s doing. This is refreshing, because a show like this could just as easily have a screw-up at the helm. That premise may be funny on The Office (where Kaling got her start), but I for one am glad that the lead of The Mindy Project has her professional shit together. It’s awesome to watch a woman kick ass at work, and it makes her drunken date scenes that much funnier!
The characters are self-deprecating without overdoing it.
When Lahiri asks a server at a restaurant, “Do you know how difficult it is for a chubby 31-year old to go on a legit date with a guy who majored in economics at Duke?!” we laugh, because we know she’s in on the joke. These characters are self-deprecating, but they don’t hate themselves.
It’s feminist friendly!
Le Tigre during a transitional scene? MIA during a work montage? Plenty of female characters who seem to genuinely like and support Dr. Lahiri and each other? The Mindy Show gives feminists plenty to appreciate, if only because so many other network shows completely miss the mark. Whether Dr. Lahiri is a dyed-in-the-wool feminist like Leslie Knope or Liz Lemon is yet to be determined, but in an age where bros come before just about anyone else on TV, I’ll take a female doctor with lady friends and coworkers any day.
The show is far from perfect. There were a few uncomfortable scenes where characters attempt hipster racism and fail (assuming a woman in a hijab has “oil money”?), and some of the dating jabs were too far below the belt for my taste. Also, so far everyone appears to be straight, and Mindy’s best friend (played by Anna Camp) is kinda one-note, that note being “has a kid.” Still, this was only the pilot, and there’s always room for improvement. I’ll be tuning in for future episodes, and I suggest fellow Kaling fans throw on a sequin shirt, grab a bottle of champagne, and join me.