I am a raving fan of “the Office;” so much so that I am blinded by the most recent season’s absence of Steve Carell and I am willingly following the show into its ultimate death (I am thinking sometime in Spring 2013).
After last season wrapped, it was announced that even more long time collaborators would be leaving, including Mindy Kaling and Paul Lieberstein. Kaling has gone off to Fox to do her own thing, which is apparently just one large self-masturbatory fantasy setting after another.
In “the Mindy Project,” Kaling plays a fictionalized version of herself who is just as quirky as she would like to pretend to be in real life, except also she’s an OBGYN surrounded by hot male doctors. I am assuming this is an attempt by Kaling (also the writer of this show) to insert herself into a power fantasy. The problem is that, as a writer, she’s fallen into all of the same trappings as the writers of typical romantic comedies fall into. But she tries to make it OK by addressing the fact that her character is obsessed with rom-coms…
When looking at other shows like “Louie” where the actor is also running dual roles in front of the camera as well as behind, it starts to become apparent how “the Mindy Project” lacks strength. Writer/director/actor Louis C.K. has a pretty shitty life and you know exactly why he’s unhappy. His struggles to achieve happiness (and his failure despite these struggles) are what makes the show interesting. In “the Mindy Project” Kaling has given herself a dream job, a strong female support group, a hot guy to have casual sex with, and all of the best jokes in the show. Even fellow comedians Ed Helms and Bill Hader make appearances in the show, but they are extremely reserved in comparison to Kaling, playing against type to let all of the attempted humor appear to come from Kaling’s direction. She’s the star of this show and she’s going to demand attention.
Parts of the show seem like one of Kaling’s dreams. You see her appear as herself, but she has an amazing job. Parts of it are told out of order, and some of her real life friends show up in very minor roles. Then the pilot ends with Kaling having sex with the most attractive man on the show. Is seeing dream fulfillment combined with depression interesting for anyone?
The question often arises – who is funnier, men or women? Just this past weekend I almost got into a fist fight with a woman for taking the stance that men are funnier. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do realize that Mindy Kaling was a writer for dozens of episodes of “the Office,” a show that I just admitted to loving blindly. The problem is that she wasn’t hired on as a writer until the show had found its footing and was taking off. The tone of “the Office” had been set long before she took pen to paper.
In her new program, we see exactly the kind of female centric humor that was buzzing around her head for the past 8 years. Referring to herself as Sandra Bullock, quoting lines from her favorite romantic comedies, living in a fantasy world while still finding something to complain about – it’s all there. Her character Kelly Kapoor was allowed to get away with the inane ramblings of a hyperactive pop culture obsessed diva because it’s funny to cut away from a normal show to that for a few seconds here and there. In “the Mindy Project” we are treated to this constantly and expected to understand all of her pop culture references. Unfortunately for me, I understood most of them, but they weren’t very funny.
Do I think that “the Mindy Project” will stick around for a few years? If “New Girl” made it to season two, I guess anything is possible. Also, seeing as how this new show is on Fox, a network that will literally play any show ever, I can see original content of this caliber becoming a mainstay of the Fox lineup. Fuck.
“The Mindy Project” premieres September 25th, amid a block of episodes of “New Girl.” May God have mercy on our souls.