The Persistent Disappointment of 'The Mindy Project'

The Mindy Project, we're sorry. We wanted to like you—we still want to like you—but it's time to face the facts: You are a disappointment. 

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The Mindy Project, we're sorry. We wanted to like you—we still want to like you—but it's time to face the facts: You are a disappointment.

It's not just the ratings—though the ratings are bad. In fact, Mindy has been at the bottom of the barrel for Fox's sitcoms, with (at times) worse numbers that the critically reviled Dads. (Last night Mindy scored a 1.5 to Dads' 1.4) TV By the Numbers' "Cancellation Bear" still thinks Mindy Kaling's show about a romantically challenged OB/GYN has a chance at a third season, but it's not looking great.  In an ideal world, this article would be one cursing audiences for not tuning in to a criminally unwatched sitcom, but, sadly, we can't really blame anyone since we've repeatedly found ourselves tuning to ABC during Mindy's time slot to watch Trophy Wife, leaving Mindy for the DVR. 

From the beginning, Mindy was a show we cheered for, being unabashed fans of the persona Kaling herself cultivated on social media. When the uneven first season delivered inconsistent laughs, it was easy to chalk the problems up to growing pains. Fox was not exactly kind to the show, airing episodes out of order and in a confusing manner; sitcoms need time to develop, and a second season order gave hope that the show would figure itself out. But by the second season, it's clear that something is still off. 

Though the show did away with some supporting characters that appeared in the first season—Amanda Setton has gotten an assistant job on The Crazy Ones, Anna Camp's best friend duties have been revoked—it's still clearly not sure what it's doing with its inexplicably expanding ranks of principal characters. Mindy herself and her professional partner Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) are pretty set, she as the neurotic, self-involved, somewhat shallow lead, and he as her grumpy (but lovable!) Staten Island-born foil. But they're surrounded by a parade of sloppily-drawn sidekicks. The show has transformed Dr. Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) from Mindy's British lothario hook-up to a sad-sack, work-obsessed stickler. And this season, they've added Adam Pally's weird, bro-y Dr. Peter Prentice, who essentially takes up the same air occupied by weird bro-y nurse Morgan (Ike Barinholtz). The other office denizens, like Beth Grant's wily nurse, are even more underdeveloped, to the point of meaninglessness. 

It's not that the show doesn't have its very funny moments. In last night's episode, Timothy Olyphant played a hot pro-skateboarder that Mindy dates. (Mindy's men seem to come out of a weird fantasy land where everyone has odd but fascinating professions.)  A dinner scene between Kaling, Olyphant, Messina, and Saturday Night Live's quietly brilliant Vanessa Bayer, as Danny's boring, hummus-obsessed date, was a winner. But then there was the b-plot, which involved Reed's daddy issues brought on by Prentice and seemingly came out of nowhere. 

The guest casting, though it does provide for some laughs, is part of the problem. Mindy loves to bring on board well-known guest stars. James Franco appeared in this season's early episodes, and Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn is on her way in. But guest stars are best on sitcoms when they add a bit of surprise to a well-established ensemble. See, for instance, the inspired use of Taye Diggs on last night's New Girl, or any number of stars that appeared on 30 Rock over the years. The way guests are deployed on Mindy only exacerbates the too-many-people problem.

All of this is not to say we're not still rooting for Mindy, but right now, it's more notable for how it's has failed to live up to potential. And there may not be much time left to do so.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.