In the era of overtly critical comedienne’s like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, fellow writer/director/actress Mindy Kaling takes to modern relationships with a lighter and gleefully affectionate hand, even if darker themes lurk beneath the sheen.
This makes sense, as The Mindy Project is the perfect distillation of Kaling’s comedic persona, to which we were introduced in a version with Kelly in The Office: spritely, smart, yet drawn to the American culture of celebrity over familial ethnic tradition, and obsessed with romantic comedies in such a way that’s as charming as it is alarming.
With season four of the single-camera sitcom set to return to the SBS 2 airwaves, we went back and chose our favourite moments where Mindy’s search for love went (hilariously) wrong.
Mindy and the entire first episode
In one sense, all 22 minutes of th epilot depict Mindy getting dating wrong — as getting dating (or romance, or relationships) wrong is so integral to the character and the sitcom’s comedy.
Over the course of the premiere we learn that Mindy doesn’t practice what she (or her narration) preaches, or more specifically, what romantic comedies preach. She plays the cute, bumbling romantic lead against her eligible date (Ed Helms) while opting to spend later that night shagging the smoking hot co-worker, while a hip-hop track takes us to the cliff-hanger with the words ‘live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.”
Not exactly a scene out of Notting Hill.
Mindy and the doomed set-up
When it turns out Lucy is merely his platonic best friend, Mindy tries to create some distance between them by organising a double date, dragging series-long love interest Danny (Chris Messina) along for the ride.
Not only do Danny and Lucy hit it off, but their connection forces Jamie to realise he really HAS been in love with Lucy the whole time, despite the fact he’d spent a inordinate amount of time convincing Mindy (and us) otherwise.
Mindy and the smooth Lutheran minister
One of Mindy’s many, many traits is the impulse to change aspects of herself in order to suit the date’s tastes, even before she’s really decided how she feels about them.
In ‘The Cool Christian Boyfriend’, after the episode’s titular character implies Mindy is selfish and therefore not his type, instead of flipping the bird to the man she joins her co-workers for a bit of charity work at a women’s prison, and…
…ends up with half her hair lobbed off by a random inmate during a riot.
Mindy and the man of the night
An attractive gentleman sets his eyes on a bar-perched Mindy and struts over to the adjacent stool. They hit it off, but she doesn’t learn of his occupation until mid-coitus, and it’s the last revelation you’d want to hear during consensual sex.
Mindy being Mindy, after discovering the man (played by Josh Myers, brother to Seth) is a half-decent singer; she tries to ‘Pretty Woman’ the situation.
Of course, the whole thing backfires in more than one way.
Mindy and the law suit
Only Mindy would consider sleeping with someone who claims that she’ll meet the love of her life shortly after the act. How can you compare one purely physical encounter to a life of endless love?
Luckily, Mindy self-checks and sheds the superstition, opting not to go through with it. Unluckily, Morgan places her at the business end of a sexual harassment lawsuit.
In the end, a date with Mindy is the only thing that’ll change Morgan’s mind. What a guy.
Mindy and the sk8er man
Our protagonist sure does love using dating as a means to prove something to someone else. This time Mindy’s circle decide setting up Mindy on dates is a pointless endeavour, which Danny explains is due to her pickiness and tendency to judge, leaving her with no choice but to prove everyone wrong.
The wrong comes in the form of Graham (Timothy Olyphant) — a forty-something sk8er boy that the Mindy we know and love wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot clothing rack.
Another painful double-date sees poor Graham sit there in his dining chair, used as nothing more than fuel for Mindy and Danny's underhanded, insult-ridden banter.
Mindy and Mr Wedding
The tried-and-true sitcom trope of a character trying to find a date to the ex’s wedding is given the Mindy treatment in the episode ‘Wedding Crushers’. This time the ex is professional asshole Josh, and the date is her grating co-worker Peter.
Peter ends up the perfect wedding companion, even going to the trouble of making the bride happy in any way he can —including sleeping with her in the reception bathrooms. What a thoughtful plus-one.
Mindy and Seth Rogan
When planning to reconnect with a boy from her early teenage years, Mindy is already writing a screenplay in her mind. At age 13, their connection was easy and free and memorable, and she swoons at the idea of an adult romance. What a story to tell the kids.
One of the rare times that Mindy’s expectations end up in the vicinity of reality, as the two hit it off in a way she rarely encounters.
Unfortunately, when Rogan reveals his imminent deployment to Afghanistan, those romantic comedy-borne ideals overtake Mindy’s brain.
By the time she’s barking that he should stay because he’s “cute and fun”, it’s hard not to wonder if Mindy suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.
Mindy and the pretentious tool
Taking an insult to heart is one thing, but letting an insult dictate your behaviour is another. Instead of telling the smarmy academic to shove his appendices up his antique pipe, Mindy opts to prove that she is, despite his impression, a sophisticated woman with her eye to the cultural grapevine.
Lucky for her (and us), she can’t maintain the ruse for long.
Season four of The Mindy Project airs Mondays at 8pm (AEST) on SBS 2. After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.
Missed the first episode? Watch it right here: