One of the great drawbacks about living in Australia – next to, of course, the great many advantages (he says patriotically while balancing on a wombat and holding a stubby of beer) – is that some TV shows take quite a while to reach our shores.
While this can work to our benefit at times – we don’t waste time getting invested in shows that die quickly such as Pan Am or Last Resort since by the time they reach us they are already cancelled or on life support – it also means that we spend months reading about fun or creatively rich TV shows without seeing a second of footage.
This dynamic has been ameliorated somewhat in recent years by the fast tracking of shows, primarily by cable TV, which can have much-awaited TV series on our screens in as little as 36 hours after the US screening (The Walking Dead being a case in point).
But for reasons known only to the TV gods, The Mindy Project, which thankfully is doing reasonably well in its time slot (though it hardly be classed as a runaway hit) in the USA, wasn’t afforded such a speedy trip on our screens and only made its debut last night.
And for the most part it was worth the wait.
The brainchild of Mindy Kaling, who has found fame, and possibly fortune (a question for her accountant should I ever meet him or her) in recent years, through her appearance as Kelly Kapoor in the US version of The Office, and her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, the less-than-imaginatively named sitcom shows a great deal of promise with a well-put together pilot episode that does an effective job of introducing us to the premise, and characters and even providing more than the usual quota of first show laughs in the process.
(I find very few sitcom pilots generally lead to an avalanche of guffaws since they are mainly concerned, and rightly so with setting up the premise and introducing us to the characters so that bounteous laughs may be had, hopefully from, episode two.)
Revolving around a rather socially and romantically hapless ob/gyn called, wait for it, Mindy, who has a lifelong love of romantic comedies, and a rather unfortunate tendency to see life through the rose-coloured lens of these movies.
It leads her into a doomed relationship with a doctor at the hospital which ends when he falls for the woman who sells bagels in the hospital lobby and has more child-bearing years ahead of her than Mindy (a sore point for her as a single woman of 31) and at whose wedding this accomplished young professional woman, with a soft heart who takes on more uninsured cases than she can afford, delivers a spectacularly inappropriately speech to the bride and groom, while still possessing the nous to grab a full magnum of champagne as she makes her dramatic exit.
Unfortunately whatever glory she seized for herself with her defiant “f**k you” speech to her former fiance, is literally and figuratively diluted, when she loses control of the bicycle on which she makes her getaway, green-sequined dress and all, and plunges into suburbanite’s swimming pool where she has a surreal and rather testy conversation with a child’s Barbie doll about the less-than-perfect state of her life.
Resolving to improve her life – which includes taking on more insured patients, dressing better for first dates (with the unasked for help of her male colleague, and I would suspect figure of series-long URST – Unresolved Sexual Tension for those not acronym-inclined, Dan Castellano played by Chris Messina) whose advice she publicly spurns but privately embraces; much to her chagrin he catches her in the lift on the way to her date and discovers she has changed outfits), and not continuing her on again/off again f**k buddy relationship with her good-looking but shallow English colleague, Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks).
Of course none of that quite goes to plan, encountering the fate of many iron clad resolutions made in crisis, but she finishes the episode convinced that the days ahead will be far better than the days leading up to her wedding-induced meltdown.
Being a sitcom naturally, it is to be hoped that this fervent half-glass-full self belief will be proved wrong again and again and that she will have far more steps back than successful steps forward, hopefully accompanied by far too many poor drinking and romantic companion choices.
While the ditzy unlucky-in-love femme fatale is not exactly a wildly original trope in sitcoms, and its use has led to allegations that The Mindy Project and its network comedy mate, New Girl, are slapping feminism in the face with every joke they make, the fact is that many professionally people, regardless of their sex, don’t always manage to be as successful in love as they are in their profession of choice.
And frankly this disparity is funny, very funny, and The Mindy Project looks like it aims to make much use of it, and use it well.
While I am not yet entirely convinced that Mindy is a likeable enough character to hold my interest over the longterm, or that the relationships with her colleagues and even her best friend aren’t more adversarial than appealing, or that it can make proper use of the deliciously off-the-wall jokes that promise much but deliver little (this could be the fault of simply trying to cram too many jokes and set ups into one pilot episode which is hardly an indictable offence), the show holds enough comedic potential and appeal to keep me watching to see if there is a guffaw-rich payoff down the episodic road.
After all, many shows I’ve watched like New Girl, Fringe and Stargate SG1 have started off slowly and grown into very fine shows indeed so I will place my faith (for now at least) in the comic abilities of the talented Mindy Kaling and the talented team of actors and writers she has assembled and pray that Mindy doesn’t get her life together for some time yet.