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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project: “How To Lose A Mom In 10 Days”

Illustration for article titled iThe Mindy Project/i: “How To Lose A Mom In 10 Days”
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The Mindy Project can be polarizing, to be sure. Some people love it beyond all reason. Others can’t stand it for longer than few nanoseconds. I’m closer to the former than the latter, but agree that part of the show’s oddness has to do with the caricature-like nature of the characters. For every fleshed-out, dreamy heartthrob like Danny, we get frat-boy Peter, who has been tapped into various moments of humanity, or meddlesome mom Annette, or Morgan, a giant man-child whose own survival into adulthood appears suspect. Tonight Morgan gets a lot of play, mostly for good, but this episode highlights how hard it is to create a meaningful sitcom realization from such cartoony characters. That The Mindy Project is able to pull this off at all points to the strength of the show.

Not that the absurdity isn’t still there: It’s present on admirable asides like Mindy borrowing Danny’s shoehorn to save her cell-phone from the toilet (he had to wear flip-flops all day!) and using his record albums as plates. Danny’s mom’s aquarium sweatshirt, Morgan bolting his desk to the floor, Dot calling QVC. TMP would still be funny with all of these elements in place, but then the show adds a key, strong undercurrent of sentiment that makes the show go much deeper.

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For example, tonight we have: Morgan’s need for family. Since we met him early on in TMP season one, Morgan Tookers has been devoted to the Shulman & Associates medical practice, even though they pay him a poverty-level wage and avoid him at most opportunities. We know he lives with his grandmother and has a lot of dogs. So his readiness to step into the role of Danny’s new dad after a few dates with Annette is not only hilarious, but reeks of pathos. For Morgan, crashing a makeshift family dinner between Mindy, Danny, and his mom is an absolute dream come true. Those red baseball caps during the game of catch were comedy gold, as was the Danny and Morgan tussle in which Danny fruitlessly tried to fight Morgan while Morgan tried to kiss and forgive him. (Also: reappearance of the long-missing outdoor courtyard!) I’m bringing up Morgan because we haven’t seen him get such an active role in an A-plot for awhile, and “How To Lose A Mom” makes the most of his completely-over-the-top, giant-hearted self.

Speaking of Danny and his mom, their scene on the sidewalk is another few minutes that elevates Mindy Project to a higher level. Annette hasn’t dated for all of these years because she didn’t want her sons to be let down again after their dad left. It’s a subtle reminder of how difficult single motherhood is, and how Annette’s now no-barriers closeness with her sons is the result of years of them being the absolute focus of her life. So we can almost forgive Annette her constant privacy transgressions­ a lot but not quite: no one should eat in the bathtub, especially not ziti.

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How the viewer feels about these characters is completely subjective: I love the casting of Rhea Perlman here, but she’s been around a lot over the past few weeks. If you can’t stand Morgan, tonight probably isn’t going to change your mind much. But you still have to applaud the nimble plotting: it at first appears to be a stretch to somehow have Danny’s mom’s dating link to Morgan and Tamra’s breakup. Having Morgan step up as Annette’s favorite date is a perfect way to do so, resulting in a tightly crafted episode.

The years of character buildup pay off here, too: Another valuable moment tonight happens when Mindy actually compliments Morgan in the restaurant. She has to be creative to find something he’s better at than anyone (lifting things), but because we now appreciate him too, along with Mindy, his validation from her has been a long time coming. And considering how devoted he has been to Mindy over the years, well-deserved. Also loved his little smile as he tried to break up what appeared to be two women fighting over him.

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TMP appears to be on some sort of “Mindy meddles, Danny gets mad, then comes to his senses” plot generator. Episodes like this one and last week’s could be paving the way for future Danny and Mindy relationship conflict. Standing on its own, though, “How To Lose Your Mom” is a testament to how The Mindy Project can make us feel for its characters, even the oddest ones of all.

Stray observations:

  • Baths: #9 Way To Have A Horny Autumn
  • I’m having a hard time straightening out where our two main characters are this episode: They appear to be spending most of their time in Mindy’s apartment for a change, but then why would Danny’s mom be trying to break in to Mindy’s bathroom?
  • “You just spilled all the blood samples!” Peter was fairly minimized this episode: Do you think the show is already starting to phase him out in anticipation of Adam Pally’s departure?
  • My new favorite Beverly moment: calling Morgan “unprofessional” as she shucks corn in the office. Part of me wants more of her back story and the other part hopes we never get it.
  • Mindy’s best outfit: pretty purple print wrap dress in the office
  • Mindy’s worst outfit: that lumberjack sweater with the matching red gloves indoors
  • The name of Mindy’s future smug, wine-fueled mom blog: “Diapers And Dreams”
  • I really enjoyed Dr. Ledreau’s robin-in-the-birdbath stories. That was Fred Grandy, TV’s Gopher from The Love Boat and former Republican congressman (and dad of Mindy Project writer Charlie Grandy), as the hilariously boring Dr. Ledreau. Aphids! His grandson’s trumpet!
  • Morgan did the ice-bucket challenge with hot water.
  • Not a fan of the Natalie Holloway aside: Some things shouldn’t even be joked about, Mindy Project.
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