Welcome to the funny girls' era of television. Last year's new crop of shows included breakout hits New Girl and 2 Broke Girls, followed by HBO's critically adored comedy Girls from Lena Dunham. With Tina Fey's 30 Rock entering its final season, it's not a bad time to be a funny woman on television (unless your name is Whitney). This season, Fox is hoping to find a suitable time-slot pairing for New Girl in Mindy Kaling's new comedy, the somewhat dubiously named The Mindy Project.
I did not have high hopes for the Office writer/actress' new comedy -- not because I don't like Mindy Kaling, but because of all the comparisons between her new show and the 2001 rom-com Bridget Jones's Diary. After watching the pilot episode, I can now say that, although those comparisons are certainly merited, The Mindy Project has its own unique voice. It depicts the messy life of a 31-year-old doctor looking for love and personal fulfillment. As it turns out, the titular "project" is Mindy herself. She wants so badly for her life to be a Nora Ephron movie, but she keeps getting in her own way, either by making bad choices (like attending her ex-boyfriend's wedding) or by being just a little too neurotic to be considered adorable.
In that sense, Mindy is like the anti-Zooey Deschanel. She's a hot mess -- and she knows it. But that doesn't stop her from trying to change. At first it seems like Mindy might be beyond hope (she did start the series off by getting arrested, after all), but she also shows that she's capable of growth, even if she does it by taking two steps forward and one step back. Progress is progress!
Despite its flaws (and Mindy's), I found myself genuinely enjoying The Mindy Project because, like Mindy, I love romantic comedies. And even if Mindy doesn't realize it, her life really is a romantic comedy -- it just happens to be stuck in the first half-hour. You know, the part where the main character's ex-boyfriend (who dumped her because she was too old) just got married, she can't get a real date to save her life, and when she finally does, it gets interrupted by a work emergency.
Meanwhile she's struggling to resist the shallow advances of her gorgeous man-whore coworker (did I mention he's Australian?), while bickering like an old divorced couple with the other one. Of course we can see that all their sniping is just foreplay, and that the snarky, rough-edged Jersey boy is really the Tom Hanks to Mindy's Meg Ryan. It's just a matter of time before she realizes it... and then messes it up, and then tries to fix it, and then he messes it up. (This is known as the Circle of Sitcom Love Life.)
Mindy, like the show itself, is a work in progress, and like any project worth doing, this one is going to take a long time (I hope). Until then, I'm perfectly happy to watch The Mindy Train Wreck.