Fall TV Preview: Mindy Kaling enters the spotlight on ‘The Mindy Project’

Over the past several years, Mindy Kaling has been the sort of talent that has lifted so many others to great heights — with it be via her writing, or simply raising the quality of the scenes that she is in. Kelly Kapoor always managed to do a lot with very little on “The Office,” and given her amount of screen time over there on NBC (plus an obvious desire for a change), it’s hardly a surprise to see that Kaling decided to step into her own show on Fox in “The Mindy Project.” It’s clearly a show with her stamp on it — not only is she the star, but she also has credits as a writer and an executive producer.

We’ve seen the pilot for the latest edition of our Fall TV Preview series, and we have to say that by and large, Kaling made the right decision in getting her own show. “The Mindy Project” is a delightful show with great promise — and even though there are weaknesses, they are not so insurmountable that the show will be stuck in first gear for the entirety of its run.

Kaling’s character (also named Mindy) is the sort of woman that you see in many of the romantic comedies she often wants — she’s a dreamer, has a bit heart, and is also prone to mistakes and insecurities. The biggest one of the premiere? Getting herself arrested after having a meltdown at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding (which she attended out of some form of self-sabotage). The entire first episode really deals mostly with the aftermath of that, and how Mindy seems desperate to avoid her past mistakes in love, but continues to commit them over and over again regardless.

The first thing that we should point out here is that the comedy actually reminds us a little bit more of “Sex and the City” than any show has in years. Mindy is not Carrie Bradshaw, but she acts herself many of the same questions while operating on a bit more outrageous of a scale. It’s almost as though someone pumped Carrie’s head full of whimsy, changed a few elements, and then brought us where we are today. The show is not as obscene, but many of the men are depicted as hounds of a similar variety (though not all of them, which is nice). The humor is snappy and topical, and most of the jokes from Kaling and the rest of the cast land. The show is just very bold and we appreciate that — it’s refreshing to see an Indian-American in a leading role, and that there are some jokes made here that many shows would not even try.

One of the real reasons why “The Mindy Project” is primed for success is not so much for the reasons listed above — it’s for the fact that the show lacks any major flaws. The biggest issue at the moment is just what may have been a creative mistake on Kaling’s part to feature another actor from “The Office” in the pilot. We were just starting to get Kelly out of our heads, and then this actor (who we won’t spoil for the sake of surprise) comes in and she comes rushing back into our head. (B.J. Novak is an executive producer on the show, but he does not appear in the first episode.) Another small note? Kaling is so good that we almost forget all of the supporting characters, and they need to somehow rise to the forefront more.

The verdict – We really weren’t sure “The Mindy Project” would work, mostly because Kelly on “The Office” seemed to be at her best in smaller doses. However, it joins “Ben & Kate” as a part of a very strong comedy lineup for Fox on Tuesdays — one that could still have trouble given the competition across some of the other networks. The good news for “The Mindy Project” is that it has a fantastic lead-in with “New Girl,” which is a ratings warrior and also has similar subject matter.

We would be surprised honestly if “The Mindy Project” does not get a full season, and we give it a good recommendation to watch, especially if you are tuning in to “New Girl” and you have a freeĀ scheduleĀ for half an hour.

Photo: Fox

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