[Small spoilers ahead.]
“The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling writes in her new book, Why Not Me?, “is most inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” The show is a rom-com. Its male lead, Danny Castellano, is basically a Staten Island-raised version of Fitzwilliam Darcy. And while its female lead, Mindy Lahiri, is “much less like Elizabeth Bennet than she is a combination of Carrie Bradshaw and Eric Cartman,” the show also features miscommunication and confusion and mutual arrogance and mutual humblings and supporting characters both well-meaning and meddling, all of these things having the combined effect of preventing—or almost-preventing—the central couple from getting together.
With “getting together” meaning, in the Austenian sense, “getting married.”
Given all that, Kaling initially envisioned The Mindy Project, she writes, going something like this:
Boy meets Girl. Boy hates Girl. Girl is not that crazy about Boy either. Eventually Girl wears Boy down with friendliness. Boy and Girl become confidantes. Boy grows to love Girl but can’t express it. Boy and Girl get very close to marrying other boys and girls. Boy realizes he was being kind of dick. Girls realizes she was being judgmental and superficial. Boy and Girl have sex. Boy and Girl accidentally get pregnant. Boy and Girl love each other as best they can and live happily ever after.
It’s a formula that could easily become boring/frustrating/saccharine. It doesn’t, though. The Mindy Project manages to inject both heart and humor into its bare-bones, borrowed plot structure. The final scenes of last season’s finale, in particular—the last episode aired by Fox before The Mindy Project moved to Hulu for the current season—found Mindy and Danny, pregnant and in love, talking about getting engaged. Mindy wanted that. But Danny didn’t. Not because he didn’t love Mindy—not because he didn’t want to be with her, in the almost-Austenian way—but because, being both a child and a man of divorce, he was deeply suspicious of marriage.