September 17, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Mindy Project”



After an uneven season and a half that seemed to slide from one genre and tone to the next on a nearly weekly basis (it’s a rom-com!  it’s a workplace comedy!), leaving supporting cast members in its wake, THE MINDY PROJECT took a huge leap forward with last Spring’s run of episodes (even if it wasn’t reflected in the ratings), concentrating on the relationship between self-obsessed OB-GYN Dr. Mindy Lahiri (series creator Mindy Kaling) and her irascible colleague Danny Castellano (Chris Messina).  Kaling and Messina’s chemistry was off the charts from the time the series started, but nevertheless, as New Girl could testify, bringing its two main characters together for a sustained romance can be a dangerous move for a sitcom.

Tonight’s Season 3 premiere, written by Kaling and directed by Michael Spiller, suggests that the series has things well under control.  Mindy and Danny have retained their individual crankiness–neither of them can quite believe they work as a couple either–and they’ve become a strong hub around which the rest of the regulars can turn.  The episode turned on secrets, namely Mindy’s inability to keep her mouth shut about anything (including Danny’s prowess in bed), and Danny’s preference to keep his life compartmentalized, like the fact that he worked his way through medical school as a stripper named Diamond Dan.  The way the two of them alternately irritated and delighted each other worked, and the storyline allowed the show to mine the mother lode of comedy that is the very serious Messina’s willingness to be a dancing fool.

With the leads giving Mindy Project a workable spine for the first time, the supporting players were freed up from having to push too hard.  Ike Barinholtz’s Morgan was considerably less over-the-top than he’s been in the past, even with a C story about his ex-con cousin (guest star Rob McElhenney), while Ed Weeks, neither the office’s Don Juan nor encased in a fat suit, was able to shoulder just enough of the half-hour stealing away Peter’s (Adam Pally) girlfriend.  The show’s work isn’t done–Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) and Beverly (Beth Grant) continue to be little more than one-liner machines as characters–but things finally seem to be moving in the right direction.

The big question for Mindy Project has more to do with its business health than its quality.  The ratings, which were never strong, turned ugly last season, and the show’s strongest supporter at FOX, Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, is now out of a job.  Unlike New Girl, Mindy Project isn’t owned by the network’s in-house studio, so there’s no incentive for FOX to keep it around for syndication revenues, which might otherwise keep a Season 3 series going into Season 4, where it hits the magic number of episodes for distribution.  One has to imagine that the clock is ticking loudly for The Mindy Project, even as the series is starting to figure itself out.  It will have to hope that its strength with young female viewers, and the fact that its competition is limited to the moderate About A Boy on NBC, and the very different genres on the other networks (NCIS: New Orleans, Agents of SHIELD, Supernatural) will give it the room it needs to expand its audience, at least by a bit.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."