The Mindy Project: “Mindy's Birthday”
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The Mindy Project: “Mindy's Birthday”

If there’s one thing The Mindy Project has consistently failed to get right, it’s her friends. This isn’t foremost a show about a girl and her pals—the workplace stuff and the romantic stuff come well before that, and Gwen has been reduced from a regular to a recurring character precisely because she didn’t really fit into the show’s typical storylines. But while Mindy can occasionally have an interesting insight into singledom, it really sticks to the broadest stereotypes with her friends, and that made “Mindy’s Birthday” very irksome to watch.

Mindy’s supposed best friends Gwen, Alex, and Maggie (and maybe there’s another one in there too, they kind of blended together for me) throw her a surprise party in a Chinese restaurant, with Morgan fooling her into showing up by posing as a blind date on the internet. Mindy is annoyed, and it’s hard to know how much we should be on her side. On the one hand, her friends buy her the most clichéd awful single-person presents imaginable—an elliptical machine, a shirtless Chris Evans body pillow, a book titled “Microwave Cooking For One” from Gwen. That last one is particularly outrageous since Gwen is supposedly a rich, classy lady and Mindy’s best friend, and absolutely none of those things correspond with buying someone a book called “Microwave Cooking For One,” apparently without a hint of irony.

On the other hand, Mindy was going to go on a blind internet date on her birthday? That is not remotely normal behavior. The whole concept of the episode thus comes off as feeling far too contrived, especially since it ends up going nowhere. Mindy storms out in a huff and goes to a chain restaurant where she has a promising interaction with a bearded bartender she calls Thor. This is quickly interrupted (and he is never seen again), so she can hang out with some random ladies who are at first very affirming and nice but then quickly turn on Mindy when she doesn’t keep up with their relentless positivity. What’s the point here? Mindy realizes her friends aren’t all that bad, and they’re just insensitive jerks? At least they aren’t vapid idiots who throw drinks on her and call her “weird alone lady” at the drop of a hat?

I think there really is no point at all to the whole thing, because next up Mindy runs into Beverly (Beth Grant). And yes, I put Grant’s name in there to remind you about her because she’s barely appeared on the show since becoming a regular, and the first time they really manage to crowbar her in, it’s because she’s moonlighting at a restaurant and apparently sleeping in her car. Correction: sleeping in a car. Beverly is there to dispense some more home truths that barely have a ring of profundity (basically that it’s nice to have people in your life), but everything just feels loosely strung together.

That’s compounded by the last-minute appearance of Brendan (Mark Duplass), whom we’ll apparently never be rid of since this time he reveals a sensitive soulful side—he’s not arrogant! He’s just overcompensating for anxiety! And he named a constellation after an in-joke he had with Mindy one time that I don’t really remember! So, what, is Brendan still on the table as a romantic option? Since I don’t see this show putting Mindy in a serious relationship anytime soon, I’ve got to say no, I don’t buy it. Which is why it’s especially frustrating to see him brought back around time and time again. But if there is something a little more interesting in their future, then sign me up.

The B-plot this week saw Jeremy and Danny competing for Alex’s affections. I have nothing to say about this. We get the correct resolution: Alex is unimpressed by Jeremy’s suave moves, because what sane person would possibly be impressed by a man who behaves that way? He’s like a robot programmed to dispense corny lines. Danny’s nervousness doesn’t really do the trick either, but then he falls down a manhole and wins the night. As a sight gag, it’s not bad, and Messina does his usual level best with Danny’s awkward yet manly energy, but this storyline also felt very flat and predictable.

Oh, well. It’s been a long time since Mindy was even on the air, but this episode felt like a step back after a string of successes.

Stray observations:

  • Everyone in Mindy’s phone book is at her party. “I didn't meet a cute guy or anything, but my handyman did give me an earful about Obama.”
  • “The most thoughtful gift that I received was a Swatch watch from Mike Accident.”
  • Mindy praises her new best birthday girl friend. “You wear cool sashes so you know what's up. You look like a sexy Mayor.”
  • Beverly says Mindy is built real sturdy, for sex. “Thank you! I never fall off the bed.”
Filed Under: TV, The Mindy Project

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