Tuesday night's episode of "The Mindy Project" ended with Mindy Kaling's character, Dr. Mindy Lahiri, and her colleague Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) eating pizza together after a failed Valentine's Day double date. It was a sweet moment that seemed to be yet another hint that the two gynecologists will end up together. After all, despite their frequent bickering, they ultimately support each other and enjoy spending time together.
I'm not convinced.
Why? Because they don't need to. "30 Rock," which ended last week, gave us a prime example of a man and woman who work together and care about each other without ever dating, sleeping together or getting married. (At least not on purpose.) Although there was always speculation about whether Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghey would pair off, Tina Fey kept her promise that their relationship would never turn romantic.
While Mindy Kaling has not put an end to the will-they-or-won't-they questions about her own show -- which is smart considering that the Mindy-Danny connection is intriguing and that it's only the first season -- it would be wrong for fans to assume that they will one day look over at each other in the doctors' lounge, realize their true feelings and make out to the background noise of "The Real Housewives of Miami." "30 Rock" offered a model for a different type of relationship, one that seems just as likely to evolve on "The Mindy Project."
Mindy has already hooked up with one of the doctors in her practice, the British Casanova Jeremy (Ed Weeks), as well as the midwife in the building, Brendan (Mark Duplass), so it's not as if her character is opposed to mixing business with pleasure. And, yes, it's been fun to witness the tension between Mindy and Danny this season, as in the episode "Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist," in which they both tried to call each other's bluff about whether Mindy could be Danny's patient without awkwardness. (They make it to the breast exam before Danny calls it quits.) I worry, though, that taking their relationship further would hurt their incredible non-platonic bond -- a bond that reflects one many of us have with our friends and co-workers and doesn't necessarily serve as a gateway to romance. It would also disrupt Kaling's professional-woman-with-a-messy-personal-life story line. As she told Collider, "There is this cliche of, 'Oh, your professional life is fine, but your romantic life isn't.' But, that's also really true of me and all my friends. You don't want to not do something that's relatable simply because you're worried that it might be cliche ... A formula isn't bad, if it's executed at a really high level."
Unlike in the cases of Jim and Pam on "The Office" or Ross and Rachel on "Friends," in which one half of the eventual couple was pining over the other and the audience would have been disappointed had they not fallen in love, neither Mindy nor Danny has expressed interest in changing their dynamic, and it's satisfying and entertaining to watch them interact as they are now. Like Liz and Jack, they often insult each other, sometimes in brutal fashion -- Mindy has made comments about Danny's divorce, and he's said some pretty hurtful things about her appearance -- but also like Liz and Jack, they're there to bail each other out of difficult situations. Remember when Danny comforted Mindy at her Christmas party and even read her prepared speech for her after she found out her boyfriend was cheating?
Mindy Kaling is a self-professed admirer of the romantic comedy, which often ends with the two leads coming together, but her approach has thus far been put a twist on the formula. In the same Christmas episode, rather than proposing the standard marriage deal if Mindy and Danny are still single in five years, she proposes a suicide pact. So while many writers are calling her union with Danny "inevitable" -- and even Ike Barinholtz (who plays the nurse Morgan) has said he thinks "they should end up together" -- it feels like too obvious a trajectory.
Though Danny and Mindy don't have the mentor-mentee relationship that Jack and Liz did, they still have plenty to learn from one another. They're pals, buds, occasional antagonists. And as "30 Rock" proved, this type of relationship can be quite fulfilling on TV -- just as it is in real life.
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