What The Mindy Project Can Learn From Gilmore Girls

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Last night’s two episodes of The Mindy Project established that yes, Mindy and Danny are going to give things a go. Great! No one wants a dragged-out will-they-won’t-they thing anymore. It’s boring and annoying. That said, putting an opposites-attract couple together comes with its own set of issues — but lucky for Danny, Mindy, and the show as a whole, this situation has happened before. Danny and Mindy are Luke and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls, so there’s a road map.

Gilmore Girls’ Luke is a quick-to-anger curmudgeon with lingering unresolved feelings about his father, a loving but imperfect relationship with a sibling, and a persistent feeling that he is the last sane person left in this crazy world. He’s divorced. He’s surrounded by weirdos whom he outwardly barely tolerates, but we all know deep down he really loves and treasures them. Sound familiar? Other than being a teen mother, Mindy Lahiri is Lorelai to a T: She’s very into pop culture, she likes a good shopping spree, she can be sort of self-centered, and she broke off an engagement with a really great guy. TMP’s Morgan is obviously GG’s Kurt, and the practice is Stars Hollow. Cliff is Digger. (There’s no Rory. Don’t get too bogged down in that.) So given that Mindy is already learning from what Gilmore did right, it would be especially joyous for fans if Mindy could also learn from what Gilmore did a little bit wrong. Some suggestions:

Rule No. 1 to be taken from Gilmore Girls: Do not introduce a new character who is Danny’s secret child from years ago that he never knew about. Mindy doesn’t really seem like a show that would go in that direction, but one cannot overstate how disastrous April Nardini was both for Luke and Lorelai’s relationship but also for GG in general. April specifics aside, the real rule here is that there’s no need for arbitrary obstacles. Danny and Mindy have enough to fight about that comes from authentic places of fundamental disagreement.

Rule No. 2: Go ahead and embrace grand gestures. Danny agreeing to read Bridget Jones’s Diary is a cute start, but Luke bought a house. (Well, almost.) Danny’s not a very expressive guy in the first place, so whatever this big gesture is will seem extra meaningful. Bonus!

Rule No. 3: Don’t stop the squabbling. Danny and Mindy’s chemistry comes from their frequent inability to see eye to eye. It’s fun to watch them jockey for the upper hand, and just because they’re a couple doesn’t mean they should suddenly start agreeing on everything. (This is true only for TV couples. If you and your real life partner bicker all the time, break up; life is not supposed to be that hard.) Just like Luke kept serving Lorelai coffee and doughnuts, let Danny and Mindy stick pretty close to their normal behaviors.

Rule No. 4: You only get one big breakup. Luke and Lorelai broke up twice. The first time, halfway through season five, sort of made sense — it stemmed from Luke’s insecurity around Lorelai’s baby daddy Christopher, as well as the ongoing class conflict between Luke and Lorelai’s chichi, judgmental parents. Okay, sure. But when they broke up again at the end of season six, it was just a brutal rehash of what we’d already seen, plus this time it was for no good reason (except for the aforementioned April). This is television — couples break up and get back together. That’s all fine. But if Danny and Mindy do break up, it should be for a good, character-driven reason, and not because a new random character turns everyone into a lunatic. And it can only happen that one time, because after the second time, it’s just punishing.

Rule No. 5: Give the rest of the characters fun stuff to do, too. This is something Mindy has struggled with generally speaking; the show doesn’t always know what to do with its non-Mindy stories. This is getting a little bit better, thanks to bigger stories for Morgan and the introduction of Pete. But on Gilmore Girls, the Luke and Lorelai engagement co-occurs with some of the least compelling stories about Rory and Logan, and particularly about Logan’s terrible family. Bleh! Avoid.

What Mindy Can Learn From Gilmore Girls