Rien n’arrete nos esprits

The Mindy Project – “All My Problems Solved Forever…”

The first season of The Mindy Project was wildly inconsistent, more so than just about any other show on television. Week to week, episodes would vary so greatly in quality that it made it difficult for me to get invested. It also made it impossible for the show to figure out just what it wanted to be. It wasn’t a catastrophe, but it also never achieved the quality that a Mindy Kaling project should have.

Season two begins with a huge voice-over/montage full of information that could fill an entire season itself. Mindy is still in Haiti with Casey, and actually enjoying herself, which prompts him to propose. Then Mindy passes out from abdominal pain and is flown back to New York City. Now, okay, I knew going in that Mindy had to get back to New York in this episode, but I wasn’t expecting a completely random medical emergency. It’s a weird element that feels out of place and underdeveloped, but I digress. Back in New York, we get the lowdown on the rest of this ridiculously over-sized cast: Jeremy has taken on more responsibility in the practice, and is gaining weight; Danny is back together with his ex-wife Christina, but they’re not having sex; there’s a sassy nurse, Tamra, but I honestly can’t remember whether or not she was in the first season; Morgan, Betsy, and Beth Grant (as I shall always refer to her) are still the same. Oh, and James Franco has taken Mindy’s place.

Mindy and Casey decide to get married before returning to Haiti in a week. Danny and Christina see Dr. James Franco for sex therapy, and then she finds porn on his laptop. Dr. James Franco continues to be very liked by everyone. The solutions are simple: Mindy and Casey will have a small ceremony in Mindy’s apartment; Danny will propose to Christina; Dr. James Franco will continue to be handsome and charming. Well, that’s not really a solution to anything, it’s just what happens. Anyway.

At the impromptu ceremony, Mindy and Danny have a heart-to-heart about what it is Mindy wants out of life. They have these discussions a lot. But she knows she loves Casey, and since he peed on her dress earlier, she walks down the aisle in her scrubs. But Casey calls it off, saying that he wants to give Mindy the wedding she wants, but that she needs to stay in New York for this to happen. Status quo mostly restored, minus the little issue of Dr. James Franco, but that can wait.

Overall, not too shabby. There were a lot of things that worked in this episode, chief among them Chris Messina as Danny. He’s great in every scene he does, most of all when he’s paired with Mindy. The guest stars for the episode also work fairly well. Chloë Sevigny doesn’t get much to do as Christina, but her scenes with Messina work well, and when she breaks Danny’s laptop in two (right after revealing the porn to the rest of the office), it was one of the night’s biggest laughs. James Franco also does good work here, though it’s not for nothing that I’ve been referring to his character as Dr. James Franco. It’s essentially just him in a lab coat being goofy, but he integrates himself into the world of The Mindy Project with much more ease than some other guest stars. (Yes, that means you, BJ Novak.) Anders Holm doesn’t quite gel as well as the others, but I place that more on the Casey character than anything else. (I’m also assuming that we’ll only see him through Skype windows for the rest of his arc on the show, which is a shame.)

But there was plenty that didn’t work quite as well. Morgan is a character that the writers for this show obviously love, and think is the end-all, be-all of funny, but Ike Barinholtz is best used in small doses, as opposed to essentially the show’s only supporting character. On The Mindy Project, Morgan often becomes the comedic crutch of the show, and since the character is so over-blown, it becomes taxing. Conversely, Betsy literally does nothing in this episode (if I’m not mistaken, she didn’t even have a single line), and Beth Grant only got in a weird (but kind of funny) line about masturbation. Betsy was used well a few times in season one, and I enjoy Zoe Jarman, so I’m worried to see her pushed so far to the margins from the get-go. And while I tend to love any appearance from Beth Grant, her crazy middle-age fountain of weird just doesn’t really have a place on the show. And perhaps my biggest issue of all comes from Ed Week’s Dr. Jeremy Reed. Jeremy didn’t have much to do in season one, but worked well as a foil for Danny at times, and though kept on the edges, he was always a presence in the series. I was excited to see an expanded role for him here, but was immediately turned off when it was revealed that his shiny new role was “fat,” and extremely unconvincing fat at that. The problem here is two-fold: 1) “Fat” is not a joke. Or rather, just making a character fat does not instantly equal comedy, and 2) Seriously, they couldn’t find a better way to make it look like Ed Weeks has put on weight? It looks like someone stuffed a couch pillow up his dress shirt and they called it a day. C’mon guys, invest in a semi-decent fat suit, or, I don’t know, Ed Weeks could just actually gain some weight. It worked wonders for Mac on Always Sunny, and I bet it’d work here too.

So here we are, starting off the season on a passable episode, but the show still desperately needs to work on bettering itself. A lot of these issues could be fixed if the show could just choose between workplace comedy or rom-com, but I’m worried that’s not going to happen, which is fine as long as the show puts in the work to balance those elements. Instead, we get good-but-not-great versions of both, and too many cast members with nothing to do, which is a bad place to stay for too long.

Stay Observations

  • First off, I’m not going easy on The Mindy Project this year. I know what Mindy Kaling is capable of at her best, and I would love nothing more than for this show to be that. But when it comes short, I’m not going to just ignore the issues. Consider this fair warning, in case things go south.
  • It’s disappointing to see Casey go like this, though it opens up some potential outside of “Mindy dates guest star for 2-4 episodes before breaking up.” Besides, I look forward to lots of Skype chats with Anders Holm in front of Generic Haiti Background.
  • As much as I enjoyed James Franco here, the fact that the role was filled by such a high-profile star takes a lot of wind out of the sails. There’s obviously zero chance of Franco joining the cast, even on a supporting level (especially on the supporting level?), and Mindy has to get job at the practice back. I’m hoping they make the most of the scenario, and Franco, before he leaves.
  • Okay, Tamra got me with the “Glob” line, even if it does reek of a joke only a comedy writer would come up with.
  • Dr. James Franco pulling up the slide of his sperm, with cheesy music and flashing lights, after Danny’s lifeless boys, was pretty funny.
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