One of the issues that has hounded The Mindy Project since its inception has been the likability factor: show creator/writer/star Mindy Kaling purposely created a main character that was, as she described it, “realistic and authentic,” instead of “put-upon and boring,” a female not “so worried about viewers not being able to handle them being nuanced or occasionally selfish.”
Throughout The Mindy Project’s bumpy first season and into what is a promising stretch of its second, it seems that the lead character of Dr. Mindy Lahari is more than just occasionally selfish. I applaud Kaling for wanting to create a non-generic, nuanced character who loves romcoms and popular culture while holding down a medical practice, but in “Bros Club For Dudes,” she seems to take her own “likability factor” head-on. The audience is personified in the magnificent Adam Pally as Peter, a doctor who has recently joined her practice, who just flat-out finds Mindy annoying. (Even her workplace buddy/prospective future love interest Danny admits he didn't like her at first.) To mend the fence with Peter, she takes him to lunch at an American Girl restaurant stand-in. Only someone completely self-absorbed and clueless would take a grown man to lunch there, even if it does have “the best chicken tenders in town,” so of course the meeting doesn’t do much for Mindy’s friendship with Peter. But is it funny? With Pally complaining that he can’t even fit his fat fingers into the little teacups? Hell yeah.
Between last week’s episode and this one, The Mindy Project is on a bit of a streak (fingers crossed!), so it doesn’t really matter much if Dr. Mindy is likable, as long as she’s entertaining. And you really have to give her some respect as she stands up for herself and her cleavage. After all, Kaling wrote and acted in The Office, which had a grating yet hilarious lead character in Michael Scott. The Office also boasted an excellent workplace ensemble, and The Mindy Project’s is finally starting to gel: the boys’ club she argues with when they won’t support her rooftop workplace gazebo (Danny, Peter, Morgan, and Jeremy) and the hilarious female support staff (I could listen to Xosha Roquemore talk for hours). Mindy’s attempt to rule her office while also trying to fit in is starting to remind me of 30 Rock, while she throws around reverential names like Meredith Viera and Nicky Minaj the way Liz Lemon used to expound on junk food. Almost a year after the show got rid of the boring best friend character and office staff who didn’t really add much to the mix last season, the current workplace chemistry is working. Maybe all that testosterone, highlighted in this week’s episode, helps balance out her romantic fantasies and pink friendship cakes.
In particular, I can’t imagine a scenario that Adam Pally would not make better, and he adds to the already strong lineup of Chris Messina and Ike Barinholtz, who also writes for the show. These characters are all now deftly dealing out hilarious dialogue, with even throwaway lines that are laugh-out-loud funny. For example, to get Mindy to try again to connect with Peter, Danny (Messina) suggests she come with the guys to Peter’s ultimate fighting match, and she replies, “I would rather deal with the mouse that’s trapped in my microwave than go to that.” Or once they’re at the match, she finds it a bit homoerotic, and Danny indignantly responds, “There’s nothing homoerotic about grappling with another man, pinning him to the ground, and making him succumb to your will.” She assures him, “Oh, I’m not dissing it, I like it.”
If there’s a downside, it’s that we know that Dr. Mindy is not about to find lasting romantic happiness for the same reason the Gilligan’s Island castaways were not about to get off of that island: The basis of the show would be over. So sadly, Ben Feldman, who really brought the cute last week, finds Mindy to be too entangled with her coworkers and bails. Before he goes, he gets in a nice nod to his current gig and network (AMC’s Mad Men) and a poke at more serious TV entertainment: When Mindy stands him up at a restaurant, he complains that he and the sushi chef have run out of conversation. She suggests Breaking Bad, and he explains, “I led with Breaking Bad. I said that Walter White was an anti-hero, and he rolled his eyes.”
So Mindy is perpetually single, and she’s still a pain in the ass (she wants mojito muddling equipment at the fighting match). She kills Peter’s initiative to be an ultimate fighter, and she horns herself into the fighting ring to be a ring girl (to help Peter, but she still hams it up, because she just can’t help herself). But in the end, Mindy proves herself to be a winning character as she builds the guys a rooftop basketball court and says she has a gazebo in her heart. Which is as it should be.
- Pally even takes a fall like a champ. “Why is everyone hitting me in the face today?”
- Tonight in The Mindy Project’s long, long line of stunt-casting: Kendra Wilkinson as the ring girl.
- The banality of the B-plot (Morgan hitting on Tamra) is surpassed by the actors’ delivery and Tamra’s boyfriend, named Ray Ron. He blows their 20-year anniversary (they must have started dating in pre-K): “Would it have killed him to take me to a restaurant tonight and buy me a new car?” Morgan fights him, which reminds me of David Sims’ comment last year that the brawl seemed to be The Mindy Project writers’ go-to. The ending makes up for it, though: To make amends, Ray Ron discovers that 20 years is their china anniversary. Tamra enthuses: “You used a computer for me?” Since he couldn’t get her a whole country, he gets her a panda and is going to take her to a “menu restaurant.” I rewound that whole exchange at least four times.
- Was Ray Ron a Breaking Bad nod as well? He kind of resembles Jesse, and he was looking for stuff in the garage to make drugs with.
- Anyone know if the Tiara Champagne Palace, the deathplace of Liberace’s plastic surgeon, is a real thing? If so, I really want to visit.
- Thank you to Katherine Miller for taking us through the first five shows of the season: You will be missed! And thanks for letting me step in this week; it was fun. Honestly, I think that China conversation alone is going to make me crack up for awhile.