Mindy Lahari is a good person. In her heart she knows this.
So what if she doesn't always do particularly good things or say particularly nice words or think particularly good thoughts? So what if she sometimes uses people for sex or drinks way too much or gets, every now and then, arrested? That doesn't diminish the inherent ball of goodness that she is. Really. She is.
And while she might not have been good today, she will be good tomorrow, she swears. Or, perhaps, the day after.
Such is the setup of Fox's comedy The Mindy Project. The project, it would seem, is Mindy herself—embarking on a listless, bunny-hop progression of self-improvement that emphasizes self and sort of loses the improvement part along the way.
Mindy is played by The Office alum Mindy Kaling. She's a thirtysomething ob-gyn who was raised, essentially, by romantic comedies. She believes true love has to be the product of quirky meetings and heartfelt speeches and, if possible, a swelling musical score. Thus, as the star of her very own romantic comedy (otherwise known as her everyday life), she believes that those around her should accept her quirks, foibles and flat-out bad behavior with grace, good humor and understanding.
When her relationships don't turn out as she'd hoped or people wander off her internal script—well, it's all she can do to avoid stomping off to complain to the director.
The Mindy Project is gleefully self-aware. And in a twisted sort of way, it's a show Plugged In "gets."
Now, follow me for a minute here: Mindy is no role model, but the writers don't intend her to be. She is instead a reflection of our media-soaked, self-obsessed times. She's been told all her life that she's a great person (no matter what she does), and she believes it. She believes the template for lifelong love can be found in the movies. She believes the world owes her something, and woe to the world should it fail to pony up. And when Mindy's at her best—her real best—it's when she turns her attention away from herself and, just for a moment, considers the well-being of someone else.
She is (at least in the show's earliest stages) the foundation of a cautionary tale: If you follow secular society's step-by-step instructions to life and don't have anyone to provide a little perspective and moral grounding (say, your parents or even Plugged In), this is what can happen. It is, perhaps, the most cogent statement of 21st-century foibles and failings I've seen on television.
But here's the thing about cautionary tales: When you center a series around someone who does bad, inadvisable things, it naturally has to show her doing bad, inadvisable things. Mindy drinks. Mindy sleeps around. Mindy swears. Mindy treats people horribly. And all of Mindy's supporting cast? Well, they're doing much of the same.
There is always an inherent danger in telling audiences, "See this? Don't do it." Some folks will miss the point. Jersey Shore is a cautionary tale if ever there was one (very likely unintentionally), but that hasn't stopped thousands of viewers from unapologetically emulating Snookie and The Sitch. Thus, cautionary tales can twist into aspirational stories—and that's particularly nettlesome in shows like Mindy, where the protagonist is both likable and relatable, even as she's behaving dreadfully.
"Hiring and Firing"
Mindy's in charge of hiring a new nurse after the practice's old one started misplacing blood samples and (it's implied) smoking marijuana in the break room. But when doctor partner Danny inserts himself into the decision-making process, the whole thing turns into a cat-vs.-dog fight as they each veto the other's picks.
We see the old nurse putting on deodorant under her blouse and asking to be zipped up. She punches Mindy in the nose, breaking it and making it bleed. (Blood is all over Mindy's face during the next scene.)
We hear talk about "doing it" and various sexual positions. Jokes are traded about domestic abuse, alcoholism, terrorists, serial killers, rapists and harems. An overweight woman is said to look like she belongs on the Soviet weightlifting team. Foul language includes one use each of "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑" and "douche bag."
After drinking "four vodka sodas," Mindy makes a scene at a wedding, describing an embarrassing after-sex conversation she had with the groom. She then storms off (carrying a glass of wine and snagging a bottle of champagne), eventually crashing her bicycle into a household pool. She's arrested and wonders whether the police should be taking care of "murderers and rapists" instead.
Mindy has an on-again-off-again sexual relationship with a fellow doctor, and we see the two of them begin to strip off their clothes. We also see her change panties. (The camera focuses on her ankles.) She talks about what she would like a date's penis to look like.
Mindy encourages a patient to lie about her insurance. Then she suggests that her assistants try to solicit more white, insurance-wielding clients. She jokes about how prayer doesn't work. There's talk about getting drugs. An f-word is bleeped. And we hear "h‑‑‑" three times, "d‑‑n" and "p‑‑‑ed" once each. God's name is misused a half-dozen times.