The Mindy Project finishes its second season tonight with an episode called “Danny and Mindy,” which finds our central lovebirds going through a bunch of rom-com staples. I’m sure it will be very darling — because of course it will be, that’s how this show rolls. But I hope this is the end of the Danny/Mindy romance, because when the show comes back next season, I want it to be a whole new show. TMP should scrap everything except Mindy Kaling (obviously), Chris Messina, and Ike Barinholtz, and it should start all over again — keep those actors, but everything else, including the premise, needs to go.
The best part of the show is Mindy and Danny’s Luke-and-Lorelai–style chemistry, and the second-best part is Morgan’s strongly earnest goofiness, which helps temper the more sardonic aspects of the series. So keep some version of those characters vaguely intact! They are fun. Everything else, though, is hurting the show more than it’s helping. Go ahead and name the rest of the supporting cast. It can’t be done.We can all name Mindy and Danny, and I can name Morgan, but only because when I talk to my mom about the show, she mentions him by name because he is her favorite character. Sorry to Beverly, Betsy, Tamra, Pete, and Jeremy, but they are not contributing to the series whatsoever. The fact that the show is set within a medical practice doesn’t add anything, since we very rarely see anyone practice medicine, plus it makes Mindy’s youth-oriented escapades — like her trip to a high school or letting one of her teenage patients crash with her — seem ludicrous. Chuck the doctor premise.
Mindy has already borderline rebooted itself: When the show started, Mindy’s naughty secret was that she was sleeping with Jeremy (he’s the British doctor), and the series also included a bunch of scenes with Mindy’s outside-the-practice friends. That’s been scrapped, and for the better, and the show added Morgan 13 episodes in — also a good move. But then the series added Adam Pally in season two, which was less encouraging; Pally’s great, and we all miss Happy Endings, but his character Pete is just another jerk among the many. Danny’s bristly enough, but the show also has a recurring jerkish midwife (Mark Duplass); Josh (Tom Dewey), who was jerkishly two-timing Mindy; the seemingly nice Casey (Anders Holm), who turned into a jerk; and Mindy’s other ex Tom (Bill Hader), who is also a jerk. James Franco’s character was a jerk. Even Mindy herself is often a jerk!
The show did not need more of that. Instead, the show needs to just be another show completely — which I know isn’t really going to happen, but superficial changes aren’t quite enough in this case. Keep Mindy’s pop obsessions and Danny’s weariness, but give those a purpose so that the jokes have some grounding in why the characters act the way they act: Maybe she’s an English teacher and he’s a beleaguered guidance counselor at a middle school? (Morgan could be the principal, because it’s fun to have incompetent bosses in sitcoms.) Or maybe she’s the web-savvy new boss of a struggling local newspaper, where he’s the stick-in-the-mud old editor; Morgan runs the sports section. We could even go borderline You’ve Got Mail and have them run rival (but independent!) bookstores, with Morgan as both stores’ most valuable customer. I want a setting and premise that serve the characters so that their oddball tendencies enrich the show’s universe rather than deny aspects of it.
Right now, the show is set up where Mindy is kind of ditzy — but she’s a really good doctor — and Danny is a total grump — but he’s a really good doctor — and Morgan is a loopy, enthusiastic ex-con — who for some reason was hired by some good doctors. All those ideas are in conflict with each other: What is it about Mindy and Danny that make them good at being doctors? What does that mean about how they see themselves? It’s fine to have Morgan as the latter-day Woody Boyd, but that works best when the other characters are kind to him, not when they manipulate or take advantage of him — the lovable dumdum is the chance for us to see a more loving, gentle side of our sometimes abrasive characters. It’s also something disparate characters can have in common; everyone revered Coach and thus Woody on Cheers, but that might be the only thing Carla and Diane truly share.
I’ve seen every episode of The Mindy Project, and I enjoy it tremendously, but more often than not that’s in spite of what the show is working with, not because of it. There’s a wonderful show in here somewhere, it’s just not the show Mindy currently is.