Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project: "Wiener Night"

Illustration for article titled The Mindy Project: "Wiener Night"
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Well, hey, here we go. The first slate of Mindy Project episodes this season dealt extensively with resolving plots put into motion by the first season’s finale—and were kind of tedious for it. But tonight’s offering finally pushes past the lingering plots and into two funny, contained, interlocking plots that get the cast out of the office and delivers a lot of laughs.

But something else separates “Wiener Night” from the preceding block of four episodes: Each plot development flows naturally in a general sequence, without requiring any character contortions. Mindy meets critic Jason on the plane; critic Jason’s photo in the paper leads to the revelation that Danny’s ex-wife has planned an exhibit with nude photos of Danny; Danny’s show provides an opportunity for Mindy to prove to Jason that she is cultured; things go awry. Even the jokes within that structure were dispersed economically and consistently (Dr. Jeremy is a big fan of Jason’s, for instance, and that joke pays off multiple times throughout the episode). Free from some of the weirdo plots or character turns the last few weeks, the easier structure here allows the show to focus on delivering funny lines and a few good situations.

And it does that! I laughed a lot this week. Some parts of a nude art centric episode are just going to feel a little obligatory—like Mindy being called upon to explicate the nude art—but those end up being the episode’s best parts. Kaling’s delivery of that description cracked me up probably most of all in the half-hour. (“What aren’t my feelings on it? The way there’s a certain sadness to the… thigh meat. The light, how it’s refracting off… the… gnads.”) Likewise, the smash cut from, “We’re adults. We’re doctors. We can handle nudity” to “Oh my god, this is horrible. We shouldn’t have come” was pretty funny.

Mindy, meanwhile, meets Jason, some kind of cultural critic with tastes of high fault. “I have not yet tired of seeing hot people fall in love,” Mindy tells him over dinner, after they see an indie romance.

Todd VanDerWerff and others have written that Mindy often works best when the writing emphasizes extensions of Kaling’s personality; her own unabashed, unironic love for mass pop culture has always been a part of that personality and the character. It’s not a novel plot or anything, but pairing Mindy’s surface contradiction—A Learned Woman who just likes Katy Perry, earnestly—with the more serious circles in which a highly educated professional would traffic is a rich export area of jokes for this show. (“So I know you think I’m pretty lame because I can’t quote Shakespeare or the Pledge of Allegiance…” and the ensuing conversation about the pledge, for instance, works as a nice throwaway).

Off that kind of dynamic, the episode also continues the introduction of lawyer Cliff (Glenn Howerton) in a way that it is obvious he will soon join the long parade of short- to medium-term Mindy boyfriends, but not so obvious that it’s painful. In keeping with that discipline, “Wiener Night” is a good episode for the distribution of throwaway jokes, with the finest one going to Betsy’s sudden realization that Chris Messina is a really attractive man.


And if the romantic comedy happiness the show tacks on at the end—Jason playing “Teenage Dream” (well) on a ukulele—feels a little unnecessary in what is otherwise a funny, lighter episode, well, who cares? It’s not bad, and if the show wants to end an episode with a “Teenage Dream” cover, why not?

Stray observations:

  • Kevin Smith is a petite Asian woman.
  • This show has the oddest, most prolific stable of guest stars. If Yasiel Puig and Janet Yellen showed up on the Mindy Project next week, I would not even think about it.
  • Adam Pally got one of my favorite lines of the week after Mindy accidentally Instagrams her chest: “Got my new holiday card.”
  • The funniest shot of Danny was the one with the baseball bat, which is funnier the longer you think about it for some reason.
  • As somebody who would—despite being here, pretending to have some modicum of taste—rather shotgun Fast & Furious movies than go see Blue Is The Warmest Color or whatever, I am sympathetic to Mindy’s plight.
  • “Everyone came here tonight to see photos of your hot body, and they called it art. Do you know what people are saying about photos of my boobs online? They’re calling them handsome.”