On January 12th 2006, a momentous thing happened: the episode of The US Office wherein Michael Scott grills his foot (if you know, you just know) aired for the first time. This episode, which will be hereby referred to as the greatest television achievement of all time (Mad Men, I’m sorry and I love you but you lose), was written by the then 26-year-old Mindy Kaling, who also played the narcissistic but loveable pop culture obsessive Kelly Kapoor (“Ultimatums are key. Basically nobody does anything for me anymore unless I threaten to kill myself”) on the show for 8 seasons. However, like all good things, her time on The Office came to an end, and now the enviously funny and flawlessly dressed Ms. Kaling has moved on to pastures new and significantly shinier – she swapped Scranton, PA for New York, New York and is now the star of her very own sitcom, The Mindy Project (it has her name in the title and everything!), which incidentally just started showing on E4.
The Mindy Project charts the trials, tribulations and many boyfriends of one Mindy Lahiri, a gynaecologist – the choice of job for the character is a nod to Kaling’s mother’s profession, a sweet touch as well as a very cool, pro-woman one – working in New York City. It’s an interesting set-up because as the show predominantly follows one character rather than an ensemble (that’s kind of more like what New Girl, to which The Mindy Project has been compared a lot, is doing), it’s neither a ‘friendship’/‘apartment share’ comedy (à la Friends, duh) or a ‘workplace’ one (like Kaling’s alma mater, The Office): instead it’s a hybrid of the two that for the most part works nicely in terms of the investment it encourages in Mindy as a central character – as viewers we grow to love her, her brightly coloured outfits and amazing one-liners (“I love gossip and I don’t really care about the environment”).
Sadly, I’m not sure the same can be said for the ensemble, mainly comprised of Mindy’s colleagues and friends from college, but that’s nothing I can’t forgive for now: when shows are in their early stages, as The Mindy Project is currently, teething problems can occur and it takes a while for the characterisation of those in more secondary roles to really flourish (for a long time the only discernible traits belonging to Dr. Jeremy Reed, Mindy’s co-worker and one time hook-up partner, were a) that he’s English and b) that he’s really tan), but I really believe that this show, which boasts such an excellent writing team, will get there in the end. Or maybe I just really want it to, because it’s already doing important things.
The Mindy Project is one of the only programmes on TV which is explicitly feminist without really acknowledging that it is (its tackling of gender equality issues isn’t greeted with fanfare; it’s just treated as normality, which is a great, subtle message into which I’m sure a lot more thought is put than it appears). It’s also the first American network sitcom to feature an Indian-American lead (in 2013…). This show is very quietly breaking ground all the time, and so I hope that for this reason like me, you’ll be pleased to know that it’ll continue to do so for a while yet: on March 4th, FOX renewed it for a second season. I’m just hoping someone grills their foot again.
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm on E4