A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’
THE MINDY PROJECT: Tuesday 9:30PM on FOX
Previously… on THE MINDY PROJECT: OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) searches for true love and fulfillment while she works in a medical practice that includes shallow, great-looking Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), who drives her nuts.
Episode 2: Mindy’s obsessive pursuit of Nora Ephron-level romance took a back seat this week (although the depth of Mindy Kaling’s Rolodex was demonstrated again in a brief appearance by Seth Meyers as her date of the week). Instead, the episode, written by series creator Kaling and directed by Michael Spiller, concentrated on the workplace. A crazy, pot-smoking, blood-stealing nurse had to be replaced, which meant that Jeremy got the task of letting her go, while Mindy was in charge of interviews–until Danny forced his way into the process.
It’s too soon to tell whether The Mindy Project will have any great depth or memorable content, but it has one resource that’s already comic gold: the rapport of Kaling and Messina on screen together. The two of them have honed bickering to a high art, with the kind of disgusted affection for each other that recalls Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis on Moonlighting. (Of course, we all know what happened when the two of them finally got together as an on-screen couple–but that problem is off in the distance for now.) Tonight’s storyline allowed them plenty of shared screen time arguing about and then conducting the interviews, and best of all were their bookending scenes riding the subway together–especially the tag sequence, where a broken-nosed Mindy led passengers to believe Danny was her battering husband (“I wouldn’t marry her,” was his defense).
The show still feels like it’s finding itself. The ex-con, tattooed nurse who was finally hired, Morgan (Ike Barinholtz, not yet a regular) may be too quirky for this already-quirky shop, and the B story with Jeremy repeatedly failing to fire the original nurse mostly fell flat, although it had a great, so to speak, punchline. Stephen Tobolowsky was introduced this week as a more or less replacement for Richard Schiff in the pilot, and it’s not clear if he’s meant to be their boss or just another partner. (Anna Camp, as Mindy’s best friend, was only on hand for a minute or so this week.) There will no doubt be discussion about whether Mindy as a character is a positive statement on behalf of women in 2012. On the other hand, there were inspired little gags throughout, like Mindy’s desk chocolate fountain.
The Mindy Project isn’t there yet, but with its protected slot behind New Girl (the show’s premiere retained a very healthy if unspectacular percentage of its lead-in’s rating), it should have all fall to make adjustments. It’s already laugh-out-loud funny, with two stars whose comic compatibility is off the charts, and that’s most of the game already.
ORIGINAL VERDICT: DVR Alert
PILOT + 1: Still the Class of The Season’s Sitcom Crop