I think today’s news about the casting on The Mindy Project (the series is dumping Amanda Setton entirely and downgrading Anna Camp to recurring at her request) shows just how muddled this show remains as it gets into the middle of its first season. Another way to tell would be watching “Thanksgiving,” which certainly had its moments but overall was just a basket of crazy. It was our first episode that wasn’t office-focused (even “In The Club” was about the office going out together), and maybe that was the problem—everyone got split up, and Mindy’s demented dating behavior was the focus, which maybe doesn’t have to be the focus every week.
The conceit of this Thanksgiving isn’t that bad—Mindy’s going to Gwen’s fancy house in Greenwich, Conn., which she amusingly refers to as “Wayne Manor” (our glimpse of Gwen’s square hubby is disappointingly brief). She brings Morgan with her, because he’ll cook dinner or something, and because Morgan’s funny and weird and he’ll slot into pretty much anything, I guess. The concept that Gwen—who thinks Mindy is a mess and as her best friend, probably knows that she’s a bad cook—asks her to make a fancy Thanksgiving dinner is completely absurd. But that nitpick is the least of my problems.
Mindy and Gwen are one of this show’s biggest issues, and I’ll be glad when it stops trying to crowbar her in. Nothing against Camp, who is fine in this episode—she gets in a couple of sly jokes and tries her best to amp it up during the big fight—but she hasn’t managed to really establish a character here. We obviously know where Mindy’s coming from, and she’s admittedly a pretty overwhelming presence, but Gwen’s just there as a chiding voice of reason, someone for Mindy to bounce her crazy off of before Gwen disappears back to her boring family.
Mindy, who is burned after Josh wavered on committing to her before a trip, shows up at Gwen’s place particularly crazy and really descends into hot mess territory when she meets Dennis (Ed Helms, returning from the pilot) and discovers he’s already found himself another brown lady from Princeton to date. So there are a few things going on here: Mindy mad about Josh, Mindy flirting desperately with Dennis (whom she has a bit of chemistry with), and Mindy mad at Gwen. This devolves into a ridiculous make-out session with Dennis and an even more ridiculous fight with Gwen, but it all gets pinned on Josh and solved when he calls saying he wants to be exclusive.
That all makes sense, sort of. But this show is so hyperactive, it makes its disjointed plots even more disjointed and awkward. Gwen and Mindy just suddenly start BRAWLING. Mindy just suddenly leaps on Helms. It all technically follows, but it’s a little grating after a while, very cartoonish for a show that also tries to sneak in some heartfelt stuff with a photomontage of all our buddies at the end. I’m fine with Mindy being a bit of a hot mess, but she doesn’t have to be this cartoony. It’s giving me a headache.
Things weren’t helped by the subplots, none of which stunk up the joint, but all of which were very forgettable. We never really got to see how Morgan’s weird energy vibed with the posh Greenwich crowd, even though the cuts to his push-ups were one of the funniest moments of the episode. Betsy’s journey upstate to introduce Jeremy to her simple-folk parents was pretty stereotypical city-mouse/country-mouse stuff barely helped by Jeremy revealing his own stiff-upper-lipped past (I’ll admit to laughing at the line about his dad telling him to be a man and tell his mother he’s divorcing her).
Danny’s sad little time alone in the office (which starts out as a relaxing paradise staycation, but is obviously getting to him by the end) was fun, and who doesn’t love Chris Messina doing a rendition of “Piano Man”? But again, the sweet moment at the end felt a little tacked on. It’s like when your friend throws some pouty tantrum over a perceived slight, and once they get over it, they start acting all nice again and you go along with it just because it’s easier. But secretly, you’re annoyed at the mood swing. Can’t you just calm down, buddy?
- Mindy doesn’t just hate Josh’s panini-press cooking: “I’m actually worried.”
- Betsy worries that her family is too unrefined for Jeremy: “My ancestors got beat up on the Mayflower.” “We’ll get along splendidly! My ancestors financed the Mayflower.”
- But it’s okay, because in his honor, they got “some beer with the two dots over the thing.”
- Gwen didn’t set Dennis up with her Princeton friend: “They met on our ‘Doors of Greenwich, Connecticut’ tour, which if I remember correctly, you called ‘honkeypalooza!’”
- Josh calls Mindy from a strip club. “The buffet here is all over the place. Turkey, sushi, pizza.”
- From that establishing shot, apparently Mindy lives in DUMBO?