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Test Pilot: The Mindy Project

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Test Pilot is a semiregular feature sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next season’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots can be rewritten, recast and retooled before airing, and the shows that eventually get on the air can prove much better or worse. But premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…

The Show: The Mindy Project, Fox
The Premise: Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) has always loved romantic comedies. Too much. Now in her 30s, an OB-GYN, she’s still living life with her expectations set by Meg Ryan. But the dream gets upset after she meets her fiance—in a picture-perfect meet-cute involving a stalled elevator—and he leaves her to marry another woman because Mindy’s too old. One, ill-advised drunken wedding toast later, Mindy is trying to figure out her life (all while juggling on-and-off hookups with a fellow doctor in her practice).
First Impressions: Sometimes what a sitcom needs to get off the ground is a strong founding idea, and Mindy has that: the gulf between romance and real life. And yet this very polished pilot also feels in many ways like a better version of the movies Mindy has patterned her life on. (She delivers babies, but can she cure her own love life?) The show does walk a tricky line with Mindy’s rom-com fixation—it’s funny to see her escape the wedding, drunk and riding a bicycle, shouting, “I’m Sandy Bullock!” but too much of that could make her seem like a ninny. But in the pilot, at least, her self-aware humor and competence at work balance this out. And for anyone who finds New Girl’s Jess too twee and cutesy, Kaling isn’t afraid to give her fictional Mindy a bit of a self-absorbed edge.
Do I Want to Watch Another Episode? Definitely. But for some execs at NBC—who for some reason passed on this show from a costar of their own The Office—it may be too painful to see the one who got away.