The Mindy Project: A Comedy Making History

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It is rare to find a TV show is that is relatable, witty and funny without being so trashy that I have to pretend in public that I have never heard of it.

But rare certainly doesn’t mean impossible, because this spring, I stumbled across The Mindy Project, after finding I had nothing to watch when the Real Housewives of Atlanta wrapped up. The Mindy Project is the first U.S. television series with a South Asian American in the lead role.

Let’s start with the main character, Dr. Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN played by Mindy Kaling (whom you will remember from The Office). She is a non-size-zero woman of color, with a remarkable sense in fashion, on the quest to find a When Harry Met Sally kind of love. 

Perhaps her unusual fashion sense and obsession with finding a love worthy of the best romantic comedies is not earth-shattering. But casting as the star of a major TV network series a woman of color who self-identifies as “fluctuating between chubby and curvy” is.  

This alone was enough for me to fall in love with Mindy and the show,  but her brown-sugary goodness offers us much more than that. Here is my list of why The Mindy Project, which wrapped up its first season last week, is on the fast track to becoming a great sitcom. FOX has renewed the show for a second season.

1)    Mindy encourages intellectual curiosity but teaches us to hold onto to our street smarts:

She gets excited about going to bookstores to read books, in hopes that some hot shot might notice and fall in love with her. But she knows all too well to “never buy books in the bookstore.” “After all,” she points out, “why would you when you can get it for half off, with free shipping, on Amazon?”

2)    Mindy teaches us to never let small mistakes get us down:

When discussing a small setback, she reminds us that “Kim Kardashian started out with a sex tape, but she did not let it define her. So we just need to ride out this minor humiliation until we find our Kanye.”

3)    Mindy gives voice to those of us who eat our feelings:

Mindy’s pre-medical student protégée to Mindy:  “You know what would cheer you up?” Mindy replies, without skipping a beat: “McDonald’s!”

4)    Morgan (Mindy’s male nurse, who happens to be an ex-convict) educates us never to underestimate the power of weird pick-up lines:

Morgan to Mindy after a guy refuses to be exclusive with her: “I would be so exclusive with you that I wouldn’t let you hold dollar bills in your hand, because there’s picture of dudes on them.”

5)    Mindy explains why certain parties suck:

Mindy to Danny Castellano (her closed-off, straight-edged colleague): “To be clear, there was no Rihanna on  it. It was simply listening to three hours of Jacob Dylan’s dad.”

6)    Mindy reminds us never to be afraid to change ourselves for the right life partner:

Casey (Mindy’s white pastor boyfriend): “If I were to ever settle down with a woman, I’d always imagined they’d be…”

Mindy:  “Thinner? White? Younger? Casey, I can change all of those things.”

7)    Mindy reveals the difficulties of proper female condom etiquette:

“Condom etiquette. It’s hard for women, you know? Because you want to have condoms, but you can't keep them by the bed, because then it seems like you’re, like, using them constantly... So then you have to do that whole dance, like, ‘Oh, hey, I might have some somewhere from that bachelorette party I had as a goof!’ ”

8)    Mindy tells us what really lasts in life when we get sex and love confused:

Mindy to high schoolers: “But, I’ll tell you one thing that always lasts forever. Herpes. It’s gross, and it’s horrible—Google image search it.”

If these aren’t enough reasons, then maybe I’d encourage you to start watching next season for the sole reason of helping my own pastor friend, who called me to say that his OkCupid online dating profile has been getting a lot of views lately. He assumed this was a divine miracle, until he realized that all of the women, and some of the men, messaging him had one thing in common: They were all obsessed with The Mindy Project.