On Tuesday night, a thirty-something woman with an awesome career and messy love life will march on to Fox's line-up in all her dysfunctional glory.
She wears hipster glasses, talks too much and has a knack for putting together disastrous outfits. Sounding familiar?
I'm talking about Mindy of "The Mindy Project," created by and starring Mindy Kaling, who bears a striking resemblance to Jess of "New Girl," starring Zooey Deschanel. Even more intriguing, the shows both air on Fox in back-to-back time slots.
At first glance, I worried that "The Mindy Project" would reproduce the "adorkable" effect of Deschanel's Jess, making for an exhausting, overly quirky hour. But upon revisiting both pilots, I got a little more insight into the differences between the shows' title characters.
Let's delve a little deeper into the lives and personalities of Mindy and Jess.
Their love lives are train wrecks. In the pilot alone, Mindy meets Bill Hader in an elevator, sleeps with Ed Weeks and has a bomb of a date with Ed Helms.
Jess isn't any better. Her trusting, naive nature leaves her down-and-out after she discovers her live-in boyfriend is cheating on her. The second she gets back in the game, she's stood up by her date, but it's definitely her fault -- she texted him seven times and he just wanted to get laid. Ouch.
But here's the difference. While Jess has a hard time getting angry at anyone but herself, Mindy's a rage case. She drunkenly tells Bill Hader's deepest darkest secrets in a toast at his wedding, rejects Ed Weeks most of the time, and moves on the second she realizes she's screwed things up with Ed Helms.
They both have solid careers: Mindy's a superstart OB/GYN. What she lacks in love, she makes up for in work. She's precise, accomplished, and actually looks good in scrubs.
Jess is a music teacher, and she's not just doing it to pass the time. She genuinely loves children and music, and she wouldn't trade places with her model BFF Cece (Hannah Simone) any day.
But here's the difference: While Jess sees teaching music as a 9 to 5 gig, Mindy's job is her life. In fact, the reason she screws up her date with Ed Helms is because she leaves in the middle of it to deliver a baby. Jess is arguably simply unlucky when it comes to love, whereas Mindy has -- subconsciously or not -- made a choice to put her career first.
Their best friends are way more put together than they are. While Mindy sips on what looks like an extra large Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee dressed in her turquoise sequin dress from the night before, her BFF Gwen (Anna Camp) listens to her gripe in her perfectly pressed outfit. She has a sunny smile, an adorable daughter, and presumably hasn't had a one night stand in years.
Jess' BFF Cece is, once again, a model. I don't need to say more, but ... She's also very rational, helps Jess out of her overalls and puts her in little black dresses, and is a genuinely kind person. She's also the only reason Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and the rest of the guys let Jess move in. Who doesn't love a model hanging around the house?
But here's the difference. Cece may be more put together than Jess on the outside, but she doesn't "have it all" the way Gwen does. While Jess and Cece are able to wade the waters of singlehood together, Gwen acts as a sounding board for Mindy ... which is probably exactly what she looks for in a friend, considering she talks a mile a minute.
Neither of them know they're supposed to be dating their best male friend. Mindy has a predictably tumultuous relationship with her co-worker Danny (Chris Messina). He outshines her at work, criticizes her every move, hates her sparkly outfits and mocks her love life constantly. But at the end of the day, he's the only guy who really gets Mindy.
Then there's Jess and Nick (Jake Johnson). Both roommates are recovering from breakups, and when Nick finds out Jess has been stood up by aforementioned guy who just wanted to get laid, he ditches an invitation to get drinks with his ex and bolts to her rescue. Nick doesn't exactly appreciate Jess' Tourettes-like outbursts that involve bizarre dance moves, but when push comes to shove, he's always there for her.
But here's the difference. Despite minor annoyances, Jess and Nick are gentle with each other. When Jess feels pain, Nick feels it too, and they use each other's shoulders as tissues when times get rough. Mindy and Danny fight. I'm talking full-on screaming matches, with neither of them looking to spare the other's feelings. It's not pretty, but it's certainly funny.
Basically, Mindy and Jess have similar basic characteristics, but in the end, Kaling's unruly and at times harsh nature may just be the perfect complement to Jess' naivety.
Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly told New York magazine that by putting "The Mindy Project" and "New Girl" in back-to-back time slots, he was attempting to "re-create the magic of Kristen Wiig's movie [Bridesmaids] by appealing to both sexes" and make time and space for funny women on TV.
Can Kaling and Deschanel fulfill Reilly's -- and my -- wishes? Only time will tell, but it's looking good.
Catch the Season 2 premiere of "New Girl" on Tues., Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET and the series debut of "The Mindy Project" at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox.
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