Tuesday, September 16, 2014

'The Mindy Project' Season Three Pre-Game [Contributor: Ann]

If you haven't yet welcomed Ann to the blog, please do! She's our newest member and resident savant of The Mindy Project. Before we kick off season three tonight (9:30 EST on FOX, don't forget), Ann has a pre-game thinkpiece for you all and a wish-list for the season. And be sure to keep returning to the blog as she'll be reviewing this season for us. :)
Well, the day has finally come upon us.

Felt like long enough, right? To be honest, though, the hiatus between The Mindy Project’s second season and its third went by much faster and much less painlessly than the hiatus between its first and second seasons, or even the hell-atus between January and April of this year.

For many shows, this would be an indicator that its time has passed, that its ability to make me go insane has worn out, that my interest has waned. Not the case with The Mindy Project.

It’s a different feeling heading into this season than in the show’s other two major hiatuses. With those two hiatuses, I was a frantic fan, basically rabid. I wanted any details about the show and I wanted every spoiler or every spoiler theory associated with The Mindy Project, especially if those spoilers pertained to Mindy and Danny will-they-ing.

I’ve made it no secret that my interest in this show is anchored to my passion for writing. I think Mindy is brilliantly written, and I think the writers are so aware of how their characters would act and are so skilled in making a plausible story. This is so important to me—in a show that is about relationships, the development of Danny and Mindy has become a major focus, and I think this show has succeeded 100% when developing their love story. These are two people who could actually exist falling in love. They are less falling in love as a result of their proximity and more falling in love because they are actually meant to be (even if that drives them crazy).

At the end of the episode “French Me, You Idiot”—when Cliff is out of the way and there are no obstacles or misunderstandings keeping Mindy and Danny from each other—Danny asks her: “Now what?” As in: “We’ve made it this far, overcome so much... what happens next?”

That is the focus of this third season. I could talk for ages about what I think the first season offers (in terms of being a great character arc) and about the love story the second season provides, but now in the great romantic comedy that is Mindy Lahiri’s life we should be post-credits. Our heroes found love at the top of the Empire State Building. Now what?

I am going into this season of The Mindy Project in a way that is different than the past two. In the past, I was trying to paint a picture of a love story that had not yet crystallized (“See how Danny looks at her there? That’s indicative of his denial of his feelings for her!” and so on). Now that we have the love story set in place, that puzzle has pretty much been solved for me.

What am I expecting from this show this season? Despite knowing as many spoilers as are available to me, I really know so little of what it will be. I know that it will be sexy. I know that it will feature more of the cast.

In knowing all of that, here is my season 3 wishlist:

Less stunt casting. When The Mindy Project wants to, it can hire the hell out of people. Ask Rhea Perlman, who is coming to the show as Danny’s mom Annette. Or the Glenn Howerton/Rob McElhenney combo that we will see in the third season. Or Tommy Dewey, or Seth Rogen, or Anders Holm.

The difference between great casting and stunt casting is not all in the name: it’s in what the star can contribute. If Timothy Olyphant plays a super hot skateboarder and nails it, then the show should be commended on finding the right fit for the part. But if James Franco or Dana White or anyone like them appear on my screen again, I will be exhausted. I am a huge proponent of the revolving-door universe The Mindy Project has, but only when it works. When it doesn’t, it’s a waste of everyone's time.

Real moments between Mindy and Danny. What we’ve heard about the show's season three is that it is wildly sexual and perverted. That’s great. We also know that we have a lot of strings to play with this season—at this point, with a re-calibrated focus (no longer about a girl who wants to find love, according to Ike, but about a girl who has found love with someone who drives her crazy) that could potentially go on forever, that is necessary.

However, Mindy and Danny’s appeal to me is that they grow with and truly do appreciate each other. My favorite moments between Mindy and Danny are not the comedic ones, really; they’re the ones that demonstrate the writers' understanding of the 46-episode foundation they’ve built the relationship on. I cannot wait to see their love deepen. I do not want to see it coast—I want to see it develop, because I know that the show still has the potential to do that, post-credits.

“Yes-and” characterization. This is such a weird thing of mine that I need to see in a show. This is, as I’m sure you know, a concept grounded in improvisation—that when one person introduces a fact to the scene, the next person needs to accept and then supplement that fact. I feel like it also applies to television shows, too. I need to see that the characters have more to them than their base characteristics. I need to see them grow. I need to see the writers expand on these characters’ backstories instead of going back to the same old wells. In the second season the writers fleshed out their characters in both good and bad ways; Danny gained red glasses, which is absolutely awesome, and Mindy ate a lot, which is completely annoying (I did once a list of statistics on The Mindy Project and one of the things I counted was ‘jokes about Mindy eating a lot’; in the first fourteen episodes of season 2 Mindy ate too much 18 times, where in the entire first season those jokes were only made 7 times).  Anyway, I hope that we see the writers expand on these characters. I want to learn more about them. I want what I learn about them to be consistent, but different, from what we’ve learned in the past.

Essential episodes and a seasonal arc. I loved The Mindy Project’s season 2 because I felt that almost every episode was essential. I don’t know if this necessarily applies to the plot itself of the episode—“Mindy Lahiri is a Racist” could have happened any time—but it does apply to the development of the characters. Whether it was the building tension leading up to “Sext” or the slow rekindling of Mindy and Danny’s relationship post-“Be Cool,” every episode pointed the characters in a clear direction. Their feelings evolved from episode to episode.  Mindy Kaling spoke once about the freedom she felt for having seven episodes post-hiatus and post-kiss to examine the Mindy-Danny relationship, saying that it felt more like HBO (a format she’d always envied). I agree with Mindy on this. Stories are nowhere near as strong if the sequence of events is easily changed; what book could you cut and paste chapters in? I hope The Mindy Project, being without the will-they-won’t-they crutch, will find another arc that will sustain it throughout the third season.

Stability. I love The Mindy Project but outside of the Mindy and Danny relationship I would not call it stable. Look at the complete overhaul of cast since the pilot episode. No more Shauna. No more Betsy. No more Dr. Shulman. Add in a Morgan, a Peter, a Tamra and you’ve finally got a core cast. Now that the show has the time to develop its characters—no longer needing to detail Mindy and Danny’s courtship as attentively—I hope that we see the dust settle. I want to get to know these characters who hang around Mindy and Danny. They’ll never be as important as those two—sorry, that’s just the case—but I would like the show to have a direction that is not 100% dependent on our two main characters. If it’s going to be a romantic comedy set in a workplace, I would like to see the latter integrated better with the former.

The first two seasons of The Mindy Project were so exciting for me, and given how much I’ve annoyed friends with my gushing, I would say I’m very excited for the third season, too. More than that, though, I am curious. A will-they-won’t-they contains an arc that has been treaded infinite times. The same beats are hit—and Mindy hit all of those beats deftly. But now that we’re past the fanfare, The Mindy Project is in an area of complete, absolute creative freedom that asks the question: “Now what?” The answer? I don’t know. But I cannot wait to find out. See you guys there! :)


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