Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Mindy Project 5x08 Review: "Hot Mess Time Machine" (In What Sort of World Could This Be Permitted?) [Contributor: Anne]

"Hot Mess Time Machine"
Original Airdate: February 14, 2017

Hi, guys! I don’t know if you remember me. Frankly, I forgot about me. You see, while I have good intentions and have the ability to create really quality content, I tend to be a little flighty and disappointing. I guess what happened was that I loved something and then along the way somehow grew to resent it so much that I became inconsistent with treating my viewing audience respectfully. In fact, the work that I present here and now is leagues away from the detailed, nuanced sort of things I would have produced before.

You can call me The Mindy Project. (Ba-dum-chh!)

No, but seriously. I feel bad for writing mean reviews, which is why I took the playground advice of, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, swear about it on your Twitter feed.” But I had to emerge from my Mindy-shaped cocoon to explain why, exactly, this episode pissed me off so much.

Because the truth was, it wasn’t bad, really. I’ve been pretty on-record as saying that Nurse Ben is exactly what I wanted from the show (someone who would genuinely challenge Mindy, who is a bananas offender of the Lily Aldrin effect). He’s handsome, he’s sweet, and he’s normal in a world where Morgan and Beverly exist. He’s a great boyfriend in a post-Danny era, and I adored that he dumped Mindy to give her a chance to improve herself.

Rather than do what literally any show would do — especially a show called The Mindy PROJECT, which should be a show about SELF-IMPROVEMENT — the show decided to streamline the improving process into a cutesy 25-minute Groundhog Day parody.

Again, the episode wasn’t bad. I mean, it wasn’t super funny, but I love romantic comedies and I love Groundhog Day for how creatively it approached the idea of self-improvement. Bill Murray’s character is the literal worst at the beginning of the movie, and through the motivation of falling in love with a woman who is unknowingly stuck in a day, he gets out of a process that the creators implied could have lasted up to 40 years (?!?!). He convincingly changes from acerbic to affectionate, prioritizing love over career for the first time in his life. He also convinces Andie MacDowell to fall in love with him in one day, too, a true example that his change is for real.

But just replicating aspects of Groundhog Day, a good movie, does not justify The Mindy Project, a mediocre show. First, by introducing this element, I guess the show becomes a supernatural show? We don’t need to think about these elements in a great romantic comedy, because romantic comedies establish their own rules in their hour-and-a-half runtimes. With The Mindy Project, we have to be asking these questions because it’s the 101st episode. In what sort of world could this be permitted? In a romantic comedy, we don’t really care. In The Mindy Project, the only answer could be: “in a world where the writing staff was too lazy to have Mindy suffer for more than 20 minutes at a time.”

God, and the worst part of this episode? It rewards Mindy incredibly well. She hooks up with the only guy in her office building she hasn’t made out with (Duncan), she learns how to play basketball like a pro, and she has the luxury to mass-binge watch television and movies so that she can win back a guy that she frankly does not deserve whatsoever.

Does not deserve whatsoever — how is what she (or, I guess, the show) does not manipulation of the situation? Ben doesn’t have any time to process what happened. She automatically becomes a better person, and he has no idea how many months it took for her to get there — how many months it takes for Mindy Lahiri to be better. Would she be the same if she wasn’t trapped within a single day? Or does the single day act as the only thing that pressures her to be better? When we’ve been fooled that throughout, I don’t know, being a mom, or getting her heart broken in a significant relationship, she would have learned these things more meaningfully?

This episode of self-improvement laughs at us viewers who had expected Mindy Lahiri to have become better in the previous 100 episodes — because obviously, her ability to listen and be a good partner to her significant other would only happen all of her other meaningless relationships. (Yes, meaningless. I would make the argument that the ruination of Danny Castellano totally negates any potential that relationship had to make Mindy Lahiri better.) I would be surprised if she remains “better.” How many episodes, you guys, until Mindy eats an entire rotisserie chicken by herself? Or says that something “vaguely anti-Semitic” that she threatens? How long before she — and the show — forgets that she learned to ask questions?

Mindy says to Ben at the end of the episode that “it’s been months.” But for us, the viewers, it hasn’t been so long at all since she broke up with Ben. We’ve never seen Mindy confront single life on her own for a substantial period of time, and wow, is that exhausting. And clearly lazy on behalf of the writers. They can give her a myriad of professional successes that we haven’t seen that she deserves, sure. But, clearly, their specialty is giving her a bunch of romantic ones she doesn’t deserve, either.

Maybe you're thinking: How can she be so brazen? Here’s the true question: if Mindy Lahiri is really so selfless, how can the entirety of this episode focus around her? The Mindy Project is the only show I know of that fails to have a B-plot with its A-plot on a weekly basis, and the reason for that is simple: no character is fleshed out except for Mindy (and even that’s a generous compliment). There’s nobody that has been created to carry the secondary plot. The only person who got close was Danny Castellano, and look at what happened there.

It’s not that I miss Danny and Mindy. I miss Mindy and anybody truly real. Morgan is presented as her #2 (I suspect because of her friendship with Ike Barinholtz), but his personality is that of a character who deserves 10 seconds of screentime an episode. Jody, the next plausible #2, does not even appear in the episode.

"Hot Mess Time Machine" — what an appropriate title. Can I go back to 2013 and change my mind about picking this show on the DVR?

Stray Observations:
  • Still, The Mindy Project succeeds at music. Gotta love Carly Rae.
  • I didn’t mention this, but this episode was aggressively unfunny. Which doesn’t surprise me — I didn’t like “Danny and Mindy” either, mainly because I think there’s a big mistake in trying to cram together an hour-and-a-half movie into a 20-minute period. These characters aren’t good enough, and all it will make me do is want to watch the original.
  • I wish someone else could fall in love with Ben. I really like him but have no idea what he sees in Mindy. Apparently now she’s a dork — I really hope that comes into play here.
  • I read somewhere that The Mindy Project got an abbreviated episode order, which could indicate that this season is the show’s last. Fingers crossed?
  • I do love you guys, though. 101 episodes in and through a lot together. On Valentine’s Day, I watched “The Desert,” and man, it left the most bitter taste in my mouth. I may have to delete it from my computer, 196 views later.
  • Better romantic comedy shows: Lovesick, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, You’re the Worst. Much love!


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