If there's a silver lining to Mindy Kaling's departure from The Office, it's that she left the NBC comedy to create and star in her own comedy series at Fox. The Mindy Project puts Kaling front and center as a thirty-something trying to juggle her hectic professional life as an OB/GYN with her fairly disastrous love life. The Project takes some of the more amusing aspects of Kelly Kapoor and puts them into a lead character with a bit more substance and direction.
We're introduced to Kaling's Mindy Lahiri as we see her life-long obsession with romantic comedies. Somehow, she managed to balance her Bridget Jones-like lifestyle with her medical studies, as she's a doctor in the present day, and one with a messy love life that includes a previous relationship with guest star Bill Hader and a date with another guest star (Ed Helms).
While Mindy's life is hectic at the start, she's determined to get it together and make better choices for herself. And that's where things start to get really interesting. At the start, it almost seemed like the series was aiming to make fun of women strapped with unrealistic romantic expectations and a lot of self-inflicted drama, but as we get to know her, Mindy is actually a likable character, and there's some evidence that beneath her impatience and blunt - sometimes politically incorrect - outlook on people, there's a decent person on a quest for self improvement.
Kaling is joined by a talented cast, which includes Anna Camp, who plays Mindy's best friend Gwen Grandy. Also starring is Chris Messina, who plays Danny, a know-it-all doctor who's often giving Mindy a hard time when he isn't stealing her patients. Ed Weeks plays Jeremy Reed, a fellow doctor and Mindy's sometimes-friend-with-benefits, who serves to complicate her outlook on love even further.
At first, the pilot seems to rely heavily on Kaling's ability to deliver a snappy line or play out a silly moment, but as the episode progresses, the character starts to become a bit more relatable. Mindy's far from perfect as a character, which is what makes her so much fun to watch. We've seen Kaling's potential, both as an actor and a writer in The Office. But in a supporting role, Kelly Kapoor's character development was somewhat limited, and probably stretched as far as it could possibly go over the course of the NBC comedy's run. The Mindy Project's Mindy isn't the same character, but it does seem like she'll be an opportunity for Kaling to branch out both as a writer and an actor. While Kaling is credited for writing or contributing to some of The Office's best episodes, I think we may have only just begun to see what she's capable of. The Mindy Project is looking like one of the best new comedies this season. It's funny, charming and it leaves itself open for lots of possibilities. It should fit in well among Fox's Tuesday night comedy block, particularly with New Girl and fellow newcomer Ben and Kate.
The Mindy Project premiers Tuesday, September 25 at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox.