Mindy Kaling's new sitcom The Mindy Project premieres on Fox on September 25, but you can watch the pilot right now! So do it, okay? Watch it right now. Then we'll talk.
Okay. So what did you think?
If you didn't watch it (watch it!), here's the scoop. Kaling plays Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a romcom-obsessed OB-GYN. Mindy's ecstatic when she meets cute with Bill Hader in an elevator: they drop their files, her hair falls from the clip, the elevator gets stuck. When this perfect romcom intro doesn't result in the requisite happily ever after (a few months later, Hader ends up dumping her unceremoniously and marrying a Serbian bagel delivery girl), she kind of loses it - like, ends up in jail loses it. She spends the rest of the pilot sort of trying to get her life back on track. She also flirts with two hot doctors (one is smarmy and British and one's a gruff guy's guy who's obviously supposed to be the romantic lead) and has an unsuccessful blind date with Ed Helms, so it's a lot of boy drama for 23 minutes of television.
I've been looking forward to this show since it was first announced. I think Kaling is one of the freshest, funniest voices in comedy, having written many of the best episodes of The Office as well as her own memoirs, a book that might be hindered a bit by the fact that she's too young for very many interesting things to have happened to her yet but is hilarious regardless.
And the pilot, honestly, does not disappoint. I laughed loud and hard at several jokes in the episode and damn near never rolled my eyes, a state of appreciation that is rare for me when watching a network sitcom. The jokes in this episode, written by Kaling, are simply great. Some favorites:
"I'm addicted to attention." "That is so interesting."
"Never speak for Meg Ryan again."
"So more white patients. Done." "Well, don't write that. But yes."
And of course, "Racist!"
So yeah, it's funny. It's really funny. But I found myself asking whether it's the show we need right now. Mindy (the character) is a mess, a klutz, staggeringly preoccupied with getting a man and devastated that she isn't married. She's basically every sitcom woman on TV right now, the gloriously competent Leslie Knope aside. (Thank you, thank you, thank you Parks and Recreation, for realizing that capability can be funny.) This is the question I ask myself whenever a woman is represented in pop culture: I immediately judge whether this representation harms or furthers the cause of gender equality.
But here's the thing. Gender equality certainly doesn't mean every female character has to be perfect. A strong character is a character who is nuanced, complex, believable, and Mindy Lahiri is all of those things. So she wants a man - should I judge her for that? She's also a fucking doctor. We see a brief moment - too brief - at the end of the episode where Mindy loses the bandage dress and the heels and the goofiness and throws on her scrubs, ties her hair back and vanquishes the shit out of a difficult breech birth.
She's silly and klutzy and boy crazy, but she's also very smart and very, very funny. And the quick glimpse we get of the other women on the show (her best friend played by True Blood's Anna Camp, two dedicated nurses including the hilarious Zoe Jarman) leads me to have hope that The Mindy Project is a show that I'll be proud to watch. Sure, I've only seen one episode, but I think Kaling has accomplished something pretty special.
What did you guys think?