[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]
Show:“The Mindy Project” (FOX)
The Pitch: Mindy Kaling! Mindy Kaling! Mindy Kaling!
Quick Response: Mindy Kaling is a bestselling author, an Emmy nominated writer-producer, a charming tweeter and a wildly likable supporting actress. Used to her full potential maybe a half-dozen times in her tenure on “The Office,” it’s two or three years past time for Kaling to get a chance to be front-and-center on her own series. “The Mindy Project” isn’t perfect. I’m not sure I laughed out loud more than once or twice. But what it is is the work of a singular voice, one that’s simultaneously smart and loopy, simultaneously whimsical and romantic, but also sarcastic and grounded. Mindy’s character looks like no other leading character on TV and talks like no other character on TV and even if “The Mindy Project” is a work-in-progress, it’s one that I’m looking forward to continuing with. The show’s biggest challenge going forward is finding a way to keep letting Mindy be Mindy while also getting the most out of a supporting cast that’s very strong, but initially underutilized. Ed Weeks gives off a charming Hugh Grant vibe, but that’s all he’s got so far. Chris Messina is brash and fairly funny, but as much as I like Chris Messina — he’s an astonishingly versatile actor and one need only hold his work here next to his “Damages,” “Newsroom” and string of Sundance performances to respect the heck out of him — he’s pushing the “I’m in a sitcom” comedic buttons a bit hard here. Both male leads are given a wealth of material compared to Anna Camp, who has been a guest-starring MVP or four or five shows in recent years, but makes the transition to series regular with what initially reads as a nothing part. Throw in guest starring turns by Bill Hader and Ed Helms, plus Richard Schiff (who will become Steven Tobolowsky when we get a final pilot) and there are a lot of very talented people supporting Mindy on this show and she’ll need to let them provide that support. I’m also wondering on the show’s ability or desire to maintain what is a relentless pop culture-referencing pace in the pilot. Mindy’s character loves timeless romantic comedies, but it’s hard to be timeless when you’re making Siri, Michael Fassbender and “Precious” jokes rapid-fire. It’s possible that these shout-outs could work better once the show is on a weekly production schedule, or it could be something that makes episodes instantly dated. We’ll see.
Desire To Watch Again: I feel good about “The Mindy Project.” Heck, I even like the title, which some people seem to hate. Is the problem just that Kaling’s character has her real name? It’s a show about a woman-in-transition and the title reflects that completely, with a nod to its creator as well. Anyway, with proper improvements and evolution, “The Mindy Project” is a good pairing with “New Girl” and with “Raising Hope” and “Ben and Kate,” it gives FOX what could be a really solid two-hour comedy block, qualitatively.
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: CBS’ ‘Partners’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘Nashville’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: CBS’ ‘Made in Jersey’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: The CW’s ‘Emily Owens, M.D.’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: FOX’s ‘Mob Doctor’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: NBC’s ‘Animal Practice’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘Last Resort’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: CBS’ ‘Vegas’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: The CW’s ‘Beauty & The Beast’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘666 Park Avenue’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: FOX’s ‘Ben and Kate’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: CBS’ ‘Elementary’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: The CW’s ‘Arrow’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘The Neighbors’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: NBC’s ‘Revolution’
All of last year’s Take Me To The Pilots entries