Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project: “Bunk Bed”

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Hey! Mindy ain’t so bad this week! I mean, all the same problems are there, and some of the weird character behavior was downright aggravating, and Shauna and Gwen are still around and playing prominent roles (which should change any minute now, but who knows when), and the show is still convinced that Morgan is the second coming of something or other, and jeez, I should just stop typing because I’m going to convince myself this was another stinky episode. But it wasn’t! Not totally. It definitely made me laugh a fair few times, and it leaned on Chris Messina in the right way (although it started out leaning on him in the wrong way).

Danny can be a fun character to play around with, because he’s a bit of a macho doofus, but he’s also a hard-working professional, and those things mesh together in a silly way. Sometimes. Having him be the office scold/taskmaster is not interesting. He makes people come in on Saturday, for some reason, and then forbids them from using the Internet, because he has to be a big ol’ meanie for his little reversal to work later.

The workplace stuff on this show has never managed to get off the ground, and this was no different. At one point Morgan’s going to try and balance a cup of water on Danny’s closed door, but just gets caught outside it with a cup in the air. It’s dull stuff, it ain’t funny, and the episode doesn’t really break open until Mindy lures Morgan and Danny to her apartment to help her build a bunk-bed for Gwen and her daughter, Riley.

That whole thing isn’t without its problems, either—Mindy’s perhaps a little too mean about the kid (she forgets she even exists at one point, even though she’s right in front of her), considering Gwen is her best friend, but it’s supposed to be broad, I suppose. There’s definitely some messy character beats, too. Early on in the episode, Mindy comes off as sloppy and a little spoiled, saying she’s happy to provide Riley with a bunk bed because “I can do anything as long as it’s just paying for something.” Later on, she’s a no-fun square who’s planning a lame itinerary for her and Gwen’s weekend. Then it’s back to overgrown child—“This house is not equipped for kids. I eat cereal out of wine glasses!” she protests when the bunk bed collapses and breaks Gwen’s arm.

Still, when Danny shows up at her apartment, the show manages to have a lot of fun. Kaling and Messina still have strong chemistry, and although there’s some dull “me Tarzan, you Jane” material—at one point, Danny defiantly rips up a set of instructions; at another, Mindy puts on her most masculine Broadway number—they can make it work. And there’s room for some decent background info, like Danny’s revelation that he basically raised his brother himself. “Brothers raising brothers?” Mindy coos. “That’s so Catholic!”

Plus, there’s some groundwork laid for future will-they-won’t-they material when Gwen breaks her arm and refers to Danny as “the handsome jerk” in a Vicodin haze. And yeah, sure, the Mindy-Danny relationship isn’t exactly the newest trick in the book, but it’s one that works when it’s done right, and this is definitely one of the things the show does better.


The problem is, it’s just a piece to a larger show, and I don’t know what that larger show is. It’s clearer and clearer that this can’t be a workplace comedy—the material there is so unoriginal, and the background cast so one-note, that it can’t sustain anything past some weak B-plot fretting like we see this week with Danny’s unsent letter to his ex-wife.

The focus needs to swing back to Mindy, and the show needs to work on setting the ground rules of her character a lot better. There’s still plenty of stuff to like in Kaling’s performance, but she’s veering between a lot of extreme clichés without much cause. That long-expected shakeup is still down the road, so here’s hoping, guys.


Stray observations:

  • The cold open with Mindy’s date where the horse dies? Good clean silly fun.
  • “You’re a doctor; do something.” “I’m a gynecologist, Evan! Why don’t you web design him back to life!”
  • Hannibal Burress’ cameo where he points to a bunch of people and says “People”: biggest laugh of the night.
  • Although I also enjoyed Alison Williams’ appearance as Danny’s new love interest with the eyepatch. She’s got the right energy for him, at least in the short term.