With its pilot episode out of the way, The Mindy Project now has a chance to have some fun with less plot-heavy episodes and figure out what kind of a show it wants to be. As you might guess from the name, “Hiring and Firing” is in a firm workplace-comedy vein, with just a little bit of romance mixed in. The second episode of a sitcom is often very shaky indeed—because there are no major plot arcs to advance and the writers are keeping their bigger, crazier concepts stored away for later in the season, the second episode can end up reiterating the themes of the pilot, in a less polished way.
There’s a little of that going on here. Mindy and Danny’s (Chris Messina) workplace bickering/chemistry is re-established. Another well-known guest star pops up as a potential love interest (this time it’s Seth Meyers, instead of Ed Helms), and it’s likely we’ll never see him again, even though things are left perfectly ambiguous. But “Hiring And Firing” mostly works to build on the world of the OB/GYN office and establish Mindy as a vaguely competent, well-liked employee, since she spent so much of the pilot running around in party dresses.
As an exercise in team-building, boss Marc (Stephen Tobolowsky) puts Mindy and Danny in charge of finding a new nurse, because Beverly, the current nurse (reliable crank Beth Grant), is a crazy old bat who steals vials of blood. The dashing but dim Jeremy is put in charge of getting rid of her. While Grant does a fine job with her crazy lady shtick, she’s maybe a tad over-the-top in what is otherwise a fairly laid-back episode. Sure, all of the characters in the ensemble are a little exaggerated, but the series is trying to avoid being one-note. Mindy’s a little flaky, but she’s not an airhead. Danny’s a little douchey, but he’s also a smart, professional man. One would think Tobolowsky would have free rein to get big with his character, but he’s playing Marc fairly softly, as a boss who’s happy to tolerate a moderate amount of antics but willing to put his foot down when Mindy and Danny’s fighting starts to ruin his workday.
The show is also seemingly adding a new character, male nurse Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), who is on all the posters and thus, I’m going to assume, will be part of the ensemble. Even though his character’s a bit of an oddball, too—he’s an ex-con, and he’s got a weird, crazy energy that seems familiar to any fan of Eastbound & Down—Barinholtz feels like he’ll slot in well to the show’s chemistry, and it’s always good to have a big workplace ensemble to bounce jokes around. Kaling knows this full well, having cut her teeth on The Office, and I hope she gets to expand the universe a little more as the show goes on.
The most fun part of “Hiring and Firing” is Mindy and Danny’s back-and-forth, even though it’s nothing we haven’t seen a million times before. As I said in my review of the pilot, I don’t mind if Kaling borrows from old rom-com tropes, and I especially don’t mind since she’s constantly owning up to it. This stuff is tried-and-tested, but if you do it right, it really works, and Kaling and Messina’s chemistry is pretty obvious. I have no idea if the show is interested in pursuing them as a possible couple in either the short term or the long term, and I don’t really care. If the writers think there’s an angle to work there, then good, I look forward to it. If not, there’s plenty of fun to be had anyway.
I actually like the idea of Kaling being some 21st century Jerry Seinfeld, dating a new hot man every week who is played by some celeb she’s friends with. I can hear the complaints about it now, and I would hope Kaling would laugh them off, since it’s something we tolerate and basically expect from a male sitcom star. But a frequently single female star is still most often painted as single and desperate, and Kaling needs to stay away from that hoary old cliché. Obviously, it’s fine if Mindy is a little silly, just as long as she doesn’t get pathetic.
That’s what I liked about her relationship with Jeremy in the pilot—he’s making the move on her, but she’s choosing whether to take the plunge or not, and it’s presented as more of a stress-relief thing than anything else for her. It’s not like Jeremy has the upper hand at all there. The character of Jeremy is going to need a little work, though. He’s just not cute enough to be the loveable airhead we see in this second episode, afraid to fire Beverly because he’s so bad at breaking up with ladies (or something).
But all of the potential I saw in The Mindy Project’s messy pilot is still on display here, and while the workplace stuff chafed me a little in the first episode, it’s much more coherent in “Hiring and Firing.” There’s still not much for Anna Camp to do, but I imagine we’ll ping-pong between workplace episodes and more relationship-focused ones. There’s a universe to play around with here, and it’s still early days yet.
- Mindy’s out-loud narration on the subway was a cute joke, and a nice way to defuse the cliché of voice-overs.
- Mindy says it’d be weird not to talk to Danny when she runs into him on the subway. “No, weird would be, the train stops, and you get off and it’s the 1940s.” “Whoa. Then what happens?”
- Danny won’t believe that Mindy’s new date is an architect. “No one’s really an architect, that’s a job guys have in the movies.”
- Beverly is not good at covering her tracks. “You took blood samples home with you?” “No. I want to change what I said.” “Have you been smoking in here?” “No, I have not been smoking pot in here.”
- Beverly doesn’t get why Jeremy is wearing a wetsuit. “This is not a wetsuit, it’s skinny pants and a fitted shirt.”
- Mindy denies that she’s tattling. “When a hot woman does it, it's called whistle-blowing!”
- Mindy concocts a story where she saved Danny from a mugger. “What neighborhood was this in?” “It was by the docks.”