Mindy may be “0 for 2,” as she said, in the department of being a white woman with a straight nose — thanks to nurse Beverly’s sucker punch — but she’s two for two as far as episodes of her new sitcom go. She’s got a writing voice that’s as distinctive as Tina Fey’s, and that could grow to be as absurd, in its own way.
I tuned in with trepidation — one spends months, years even, on a pilot script, but the second episode shows us whether the first effort was a fluke. In this case, the twisty dialogue of that first scene showed promise for the future, from Danny’s first demand: “Would you please stop narrating?”
Mindy: I can’t have these beautiful insights and not share them with someone.
Danny: Could you share them with the people over there?
Mindy: I’m standing next to you, Danny. I can’t run into someone I know on the subway and not stand next to them. That’s weird.
Danny: What’s weird about it? Weird would be if the train stopped and when you got off it was suddenly the 1940s.
Mindy: Whoa. Then what happens?
But the surreal is real here, or at least it is in Mindy’s head, from whence we get these delightful narratives — fairytales, romantic comedies, with enough bizarre tweaks to mock the forms they imitate. Of course Mindy only dates guys played by actors from Saturday Night Live! (Love the idea of Seth Meyers as a love interest — can we please have more of him?) Of course the old nurse, Beverly, takes blood samples home with her! Or, as Mindy told her colleagues upon finding vials in the sofa cushions of the lounge, leading an emergency meeting on the subject with requisite Valley-Girl Ew: “Blood, you guys.”
Mindy’s desire to live up to the self-help culture she’s engulfed in informs the subtler, and funnier, part of her persona. Though we’re led to believe it’s her worship of rom-coms that is her undoing, her problem is more basic than that: She knows what she’s supposed to do, how she’s supposed to act, and sometimes she succeeds at it; but she doesn’t know what she actually wants as much as she knows what she reads she should want in Cosmo. A quintessential modern-girl problem. “Now that I’m in my mid-twenties to early thirties, I really want to take on more of a leadership role here,” she tells her boss as she asks to be in charge of hiring the new nurse. Does she actually want this task? Not necessarily, but she knows how to get it. “As a woman of color …” Her boss says, “I admire the pluck.” (This reminded me enough of Mary Tyler Moore’s famous “You’ve got spunk” to make me wonder if the allusion was purposeful. But then again, I think a lot about Mary Tyler Moore these days.)
I did try to find anything I didn’t like in this episode, but so far I’m still in the honeymoon phase. We got plenty more solid throwaway lines, in the tradition of Mindy’s Office writing, as well:
Mindy: “Tattling is when a little girl does it. When a hot woman does it, it’s called whistle-blowing.”
Nurse Beverly: “What’s boarding school? A school where you learn snowboarding? What’s snowboarding?”
Mindy, on crying over a Girl Scout cookie box: “A little black girl and a little white girl were petting a horse together. Sorry for being human.”
Danny, on dismissing a nurse candidate admitting she enjoys birthday celebrations: “If a guy didn’t have a birthday, now that would be interesting.”
Mindy, on a nurse candidate’s request that they call him “Ransom” instead of Morgan: “Ugh, that’s never gonna happen. When I started here I wanted them to call me Chloe.”
We knew from the minute Ransom walked in, as the last candidate, and said he was in prison and was super weird, that he was getting the job. The “No More Stealing Cars” tattoo really clinched it, even though he officially had to come back to help Mindy with her broken nose before he got the offer. The Mindy Project isn’t reinventing the sitcom form, to be sure. But so far it’s giving us a fun, fresh take on the current standards.
Case in point, this episode’s resolution. It figured that Mindy finally had to take over firing duties — and, of course, she handled it clearly and professionally, in a way none of her colleagues could. She showed, dare we say, leadership potential and growth. An “old-school” sitcom — yes, I agree, Mindy, I hate that phrase, too — would’ve ended there. Look! Our heroine has learned something slightly unexpected and triumphed! Instead, Beverly clocked her, and Ransom/Morgan dropped some serious nursing on her to win the day. Again, expected, in a way. But his creepy-weird, but also possibly helpful, advice saved the scene: “Remember: Doggy-style only.”
It’ll be interesting to see how much of this guy we get to see moving forward, and how much we end up wanting to see. But for now, at least, I’m in.