The Evening Round-Up: ‘Ben and Kate’ & ‘The Mindy Project’ reviews

Some quick thoughts on tonight’s second episodes of “Ben and Kate” and “The Mindy Project” coming up just as soon as I pretend to be 1/4 Inuit to get a very specific marine biology scholarship…

You may recall that I was positive but mixed on both of these pilots, ultimately preferring “The Mindy Project” a bit more than “Ben and Kate.” If anything, these second episodes made that gap wider for me, as I saw some noticeable signs of improvement from “Mindy,” where “Ben and Kate” was basically the same likable but not wildly funny puppy dog as it was last week.

In fact, “Ben and Kate” took a slight step back for me by resorting to one of my least favorite sitcom tropes: The Unnecessary Lie That Spins Wildly Out of Control. It’s such a tired, stupid old saw that your execution has to be pretty flawless (say, for example, the “Community” conspiracy theory episode with Professor Professorson, which was in part spoofing the trope), which this was not. That Ben kept pointing out how ridiculous Kate was being didn’t really help the situation, comedically. The moments that worked tonight weren’t plot-driven, like Ben and Kate mutually grossing each other out during the whole “waffle” discussion (particularly Ben’s chess metaphor), or the tag with Ben and Tommy improvising a song about Tommy’s fake dead twin brother, which spun out of the silly plot but wasn’t really part of it. Also glad to see Alan Ruck on the other side of a story about someone impersonating a parent while calling up a school official.

“The Mindy Project,” meanwhile, made all sorts of welcome tweaks. Mindy seemed less oblivious to the world at large, they ditched the “Bridget Jones” triangle in favor of focusing largely on Mindy’s rivalry with Danny (and in the process gave Chris Messina more to do), fleshed out many of the supporting characters (Stephen Tobolowsky’s boss, for instance, at the moment seems saner and more dry than your average Tobolowsky character), while also making better use of the guest stars than the pilot. Seth Meyers was mainly there to be the cute love interest of the week, but he was given a few funny beats to play (mainly in his reaction to Mindy’s reaction to the fro-yo), and Beth Grant was a lot of fun as the crazy, violent nurse.

I didn’t love the tag on the subway – there are jokes you can tell about domestic abuse, I’m sure, but you have to get the tone exactly right, and this wasn’t it – but the rest of “Hiring and Firing” seemed like a very solid outing of a comedy I can see myself watching for quite some time.

What did everybody else think?