Fall TV Wish List: Where should 'The Mindy Project' go next?

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Image Credit: Beth Dubber/Fox

Here at EW, Fall TV Wish List is a new weekly series in which our TV critics Melissa Maerz and Jeff Jensen weigh in on what they hope the coming season will bring for some of their favorite shows. This week: Fox’s The Mindy Project, which premieres its second season on Sept. 17 at 9:30 p.m.

WHERE WE LEFT OFF
Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is moving to Haiti with her boyfriend Casey (Anders Holm)! Wait, no she isn’t. Wait, yes she is! At first, she was just having trouble convincing herself that “it’s a fun adventure for me as a mature adult to go to an AIDS-ravaged country.” But by the end of the finale, she got her big Meg Ryan-movie moment, shouting up to Casey’s window from the sidewalk, declaring that she’ll take that flight because she’s that devoted to him. Besides, she just cut off all of her hair, and no one else will date her now — except maybe Danny (Chris Messina), who got a very tense are-they-going-to-make-out? moment with Mindy late in the episode while he leaned in to clean her glasses. Sadly, they didn’t kiss. But fans of Dr. Castellano still walked away with a consolation prize: a giant, shirtless photo of him sexily brandishing his armpits.

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT LAST SEASON
Whether she was eating popcorn out of a Ronald Reagan mask (there were no clean bowls!) or dressing up in a “Lil’ Wayne on the Prairie” costume (“A woman should not have to choose between smart and sexy for Halloween”), Kaling made single-womanhood genuinely funny without making it seem pathetic. As a writer, she might have an encyclopedic knowledge of rom-com clichés, but she also knows how to tweak them. (“Danny, if we’re still single in five years, and we haven’t found anybody, can we make a pact … that we will kill each other?”) Even though her character is an OB/GYN, Dr. Mindy was never baby crazy and didn’t use words like “biological clock” and “ticking” in the same sentence. In fact, she wasn’t motherly at all, and the show earned some of its biggest laughs by proving it. (What mother in her right mind would screen Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl for a first-grader, or refer to a high school boy as “crazy bangable”?) When Kaling did use rom-com conventions, she did it wisely: There was great screwball-comedy chemistry between Mindy and Brendan (Mark Duplass), the organic-sweatpants-wearing, crystal-deodorant-appreciating, “Landslide”-strumming “midwife with attitude.” Duplass so often plays the nice guy in movies that it was fun to see him go full sleazeball as the type of faux-sensitive hippie who uses his New Age ideology as an excuse to rub eucalyptus leaves all over ladies’ chests.

WHAT I WASN’T CRAZY ABOUT
Let’s face it: Dr. Mindy was a mean girl in the early episodes. She wouldn’t let her friends join her in the VIP section at the club. She yelled at them for buying her the wrong Halloween costumes and the wrong birthday presents. She pointed out their worst flaws in public. (“Nobody cares about your boring lies and your sweaty forehead!”) She was prone to not-so-humble humblebrags. (“I am my own worst critic. You know that. Remember that time we went to karaoke and people were like, ‘Mindy, you are like a really good singer. You should do this professionally.’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m a doctor!’”) That kind of love-to-hate-her character might have worked well on HBO, where cringe comedy rules, but for this upbeat sitcom, the tone felt wrong, as if her behavior was supposed to be charming. It was nearly impossible to feel sorry for Mindy as she fell for an endless parade of losers when she was just as shallow as they were. Maybe that’s why the best episodes came later, as Mindy showed more compassion for her friends, and a little less compassion for herself. “I kind of suck,” she admitted in the finale. “And no guy has ever wanted to commit to me before, because I work too much, I’m kind of selfish, and I never vote.” True, but that’s also her saving grace: At least she’s the kind of selfish, apathetic workaholic who admits it.

WHAT I’M HOPING FOR NEXT SEASON
More female characters! It’s amazing that a show that takes place in an OB/GYN clinic has so few women in it — or at least so few women who aren’t just there to talk about guys. Next season, James Franco will guest star as Mindy’s nemesis, Dr. Paul Leotard, who became a doctor after working as a male model, and Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) will join the cast as Mindy’s attorney crush, Cliff. But only so many episodes can focus on bad dates before the boredom sets in. (Sure, the guy who called his sandwich maker a “nini press” last season was a masterful display of douchebaggery, but did Mindy really have to go home with a male prostitute?) Mindy’s zany girlfriends have so much potential for becoming rich characters in their own right. I loved the episode where Mindy babysits for Gwen (Anna Camp). It would be nice to take the women who only get remembered as “the one in the wheelchair” and “the one who thinks everyone’s racist” and give them their own storylines.

Melissa Maerz on Twitter: @MsMelissaMaerz

Read more:
Fall TV Wish List: Where should ‘New Girl’ go next?
Fall TV 2013 hub on EW.com
Fall TV Schedule 2013
Fall TV poll: Which new show looks best?

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