The Mindy Project: “Mindy’s Brother”
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The Mindy Project: “Mindy’s Brother”

It’s a new year, and Mindy is turning over a new leaf, or so she tells us in her opening voice-over. The show hasn’t actually fully reinvented itself yet—Amanda Setton is still with us, Mindy is still chatting with Gwen (who is, admittedly, freezing her out). But Josh is gone, the workplace relationships seem less tense, and the show seems ready to move forward in the new year to try and address its flaws. But I’m not sure where exactly it needs to move to.

I quite enjoyed the first half of “Mindy’s Brother.” Utkarsh Ambudkar, coming off of Pitch Perfect, was nice casting as the titular character—funny and goofy, not at all over-the-top, and he and Kaling had decent, believable sibling chemistry. The sight gags to start the episode made me laugh, particularly the guy with the knife in his belt. Danny’s confusion at how jokingly racist he’s allowed to be with Mindy and brother (hint: not at all) was nicely done by Chris Messina. And the revelation that brother Rishi is quitting Stanford to pursue a rap career was expected, but perfectly fine.

We then split into our A and B plots: Mindy agonizing over how much she should coddle her dear brother, and Danny and Jeremy going into an old people’s home to try and spring their landlord so they can cut the rent. The B plot was on a par with most of the non-Mindy plots on this show: incredibly dire, hacky to the extreme, and so thinly developed it really felt like a first draft. I’m not looking for stirring, thought-provoking work from The Mindy Project’s supporting characters. But everything about this stinky story felt like it would be shot down by the Perfect Strangers writer’s room. Old people sure are horny! And sometimes mean! Boy, what a bunch of cranks. Okay bud, let’s get outta here!

So, moving forward, that remains problem number one. It’s hard to remain invested in a show where 80 percent of the cast can’t hold my attention for a five-minute plot. Culling some of the side characters was a smart first move, but even Danny isn’t giving us much past little bursts of sarcasm. Messina excels when Danny’s out of his element or nervous—more of that, please!

Problem number two is Mindy herself, who is so schizophrenic and difficult to sympathize with. There were kernels of great ideas in the backstory we got this week: she’s covering up a Boston accent, she’s both horrified and admiring of her brother’s rebellion. There’s still a lot of character to flesh out with her, and that is all in the right direction. I couldn’t stand the “stress-barf” gag they kept going back to (suddenly Mindy is completely incapacitated by minor stress?) but the one time I did like it was when her brother started mimicking her.

Having Mark Duplass return as the creepily friendly midwife, who this time calms Mindy down with some hot rock therapy, was fine, but by the latter half of the episode my interest really was dwindling. The final rap scene could have been a good capper to Rishi’s story but got too bogged down in silliness like Morgan’s failed attempts at MCing and Mindy’s nerviness about the explicit lyrics. Oh well.

Like I said, the promised “revamp” isn’t quite complete yet, so I’m holding off on marking this show condemned. But it remains pretty silly and inconsequential, and not in a good way. I just need something to grab onto or care about, and right now there’s not enough there, aside from a few decent jokes per week

Stray observations:

  • Yes, that was a cameo by Tyler, the Creator. Carry on about your business.
  • You’re a braver man than I, Gunga Din. I mean not Gunga Din, the other guy. Cary Grant.”
  • Mindy refuses to move to Staten Island. “I will not take a boat to work like I am in the Viet Cong.”
  • Morgan knows his music. “In prison I was exposed to all kinds. Rap, Nazi Rock, White Muslim Ska…”

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