Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x09 "How to Lose a Mom in 10 Days" [Contributor: Ann]

"How to Lose a Mom in 10 Days"
Original Airdate: November 25, 2014

Have you seen the extended NYC footage from “Danny and Mindy”? Currently it is here on Vimeo.
I bring that up as I prepare to write this review because I want you to watch that two minute video, which (unless my audio is selectively wonky?) does not have sound. I want you to watch it however you wish; for me, it was accompanied by “Midnight City,” my favorite Danny-and-Mindy song. But maybe you are OK with watching it in silence.

When you are done watching it, watch “How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days.” And you will maybe understand why it was so hard for me to write this review, why it has been hard for me to write these reviews all season.

I love Jenn so, so much for giving me this incredible opportunity to write reviews for The Mindy Project. I love The Mindy Project. And so I hate that it is so hard for me to do the thing I love (writing) about the thing I love (The Mindy Project) because the thing I love (The Mindy Project) is breaking my heart. And nothing makes me more aware of the heartbreak than reflecting on the past and wondering how the hell we got here.

[Jenn's Note: If anyone has read my Community reviews on this site, you know that I didn't like season five -- at all -- and it was difficult for me to spin anything positive about it. I was disappointed, really, in the show and in its writing. But that, dear readers and friends/fans of Ann, is what makes a reviewer critical. Anyone can fangirl over a series. Anyone can pretend that a show is faultless and swoon over Chris Messina -- who is very swoon-worthy. But it takes a writer, a real and critical writer, to be brave enough to voice their opinion about a show that is flawed. Not everyone agreed with my Community reviews to this day, because they just didn't want to see the show in the same light that I did. But I admire those people, like Ann, who are willing to take a hard look at the things they love and be brave and bold enough to admit those flaws. It's why I brought her to this team and even if you don't agree with her analyses, I hope you respect the time and effort and courage it took for her to post them. /end diatribe]

"But," you insist, "the show couldn’t be the same. Dragging out the will-they-won’t-they would have made the show worse.” And I agree with you! I truly agree, and have to applaud the writers, at least, for their bravery (perhaps aided by cancellation forecasts) to get Mindy and Danny together when the time felt right rather than when sweeps came along.

While we are reflecting on the past, though, I’d like to refer you to something I wrote before the third season premiere of The Mindy Project—what I hoped would come from this season:
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.
 THAT is the problem. THAT is the disappointment.

"But," you insist, "there was a plot in "How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days"! How could you say that the show has disappointed you when both Mindy and Danny underwent some growth in the 22-minute time?"

I look back at the Vimeo video, which is now replaying for the millionth time. And then I say: “But what was the point of this episode?”

I have said—more than once—that the second season of The Mindy Project is practically a Jenga puzzle. If you take out one episode, the arc becomes less coherent, makes less sense. For example, if you didn’t have "Bro Club for Dudes", you would have barely any precedent for Mindy having feelings for Danny. If you didn’t have "Think Like a Peter" you wouldn’t have enough evidence for how much Danny was hurting without Mindy. Maybe the steps were so small they could be shuffled around a little, but when you look at the arc of the second season, I think you see pretty fluid emotional development between Danny and Mindy—especially in the back seven, where the hiatus actually really helped.

Fluid emotional development has been a problem for this season, and in this episode you see my past concerns mirrored: the conflict that anchors this plot is, as many plots this season have been, related to Danny’s relationship with his parents. It may be new information that Danny’s mom didn’t date anyone after Danny’s dad left, but does it affect the story at all? Does it matter? It doesn’t develop Danny’s character—he has always been a mama’s boy and he’s always had daddy issues. Reiterating that point gets him nowhere.

What about Mindy this episode? I am serious—I don’t understand her role in the story, and I’ve been rolling it over in my head. If I had to answer, I would have to say that what makes this episode different than literally every other episode in the series is that the A-plot is not Mindy’s, nor is the B-plot. Mindy does not learn any major lesson—she just moves the action along to get Danny (and Morgan) to their respective inane and overdone conclusions.

I don’t like that Annette has so much of a role. This is not a slam on Rhea Perlman, who is a brilliant choice of casting. This is a slam on how The Mindy Project has used who should be a recurring character.

A character like Annette does not fit into the halfway “workplace ensemble” that the show has constructed. She detracts from it, as her plot takes up the majority of the episode. A character like Annette—and characters like Sam, Casey, Josh, etc—are not at all important to stand alone. Their action should in some way reflect on the central conflict between Mindy and Danny, because unless Annette is hired at Shulman and Associates, she is not a part of the main cast and is instead an uncomfortable half-presence on the show. I mean, think about it—the episode closest to this sensation is “Music Festival,” and even that is less about Casey and more about Mindy’s relationship with and to him.

This idea might also explain why I am so annoyed by the use of Tamra and Morgan. I cannot believe the show got away with how absolutely stupid and throwaway this B-plot was, definitely due to a lack of time. Why do they break up? Why does she want to get back together? I know Mindy Kaling wants this to mirror Kelly and Ryan, but Tamra is not Kelly and Morgan is not Ryan, and—given that we know so little about Tamra or Morgan—their relationship isn’t funny or romantic to me. It’s a waste of time that has never made sense.

And Morgan and Mindy, I’m sorry, will also never make sense. Again Mindy Kaling has compared this to The Office, through Michael and Dwight. What makes that comparison faulty is that Mindy has always been shown as being smarter than Morgan, where the punchline is “man this guy is so weird/poor/from jail/less than me!” It has actually come to the point where Morgan’s worship of Mindy — coupled with Mindy’s dismissiveness — annoys me; what gives Mindy the right to treat anyone like that, and why do the writers think this gag is so funny again and again?

Maybe this episode was supposed to inject some real heart into the relationship, but if you are going to take the easy way out on Morgan and Mindy for the first two seasons and the majority of the third (that is: milk it for punchlines rather than heart), you cannot just change your mind and expect to anchor your story on an underdeveloped relationship.

So what are we left with this episode? We are left with no stakes, because Mindy and Danny will always begin an episode and end an episode together. Any impending tension that “Diary” introduced was not hinted at during this episode. No tension was hinted at in this episode, because no tension occurred in this episode. This was an episode about nothing in the worst possible way, an episode that highlighted characters that shouldn’t be highlighted at the expense of real development for the characters that should. Where is the deepening?

I cannot express how much I hate writing negative reviews and, even though this episode was a solid C for me, I want this show to be better. I will always want this show to be better. I know I said I would calm down, or try to watch the show from a different angle, but watch the Vimeo video and understand I can’t just pretend everything’s okay when it was at one point glorious. Because let’s face it—that soundless two minute clip made me feel more happiness and excitement for Mindy and Danny than I have felt for the majority of season 3.

Stray Notes:
  • Did I talk about the events of the episode at all? Not really. A part of that is that I am sleepy, writing recklessly, not double checking my word vomit to make sure my argument is fullproof. While it’s definitely not, another reason I was so vague on the episode’s specifics is that I do not remember them. The episode was boring.
  • The problem with Morgan—and with Jeremy—is that they have not been given the star treatment that Peter has been given re: character development. The problem with Morgan is that, unlike Jeremy, he is a type of crazy that needs to be dished out in bits and pieces (advice that the writers don’t really follow, because they love writing that character).
  • Jeremy is always good, though. Do you tire of me saying that? I think there is something so dark inside of Jeremy and I want to learn what it is.
  • This is the second Tracey Wigfield episode I’ve bashed this season. I normally love her, but I think the problem is that she’s been stuck with Annette-heavy episodes and those tend to clog up the plot, given that Annette is not one of the main characters. Both episodes also had a B-plot of Tamra and Morgan, which is not the strongest leg to stand on.
  • Oh, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop making characters like Annette and Danny say “____ city” or “randos”! Know your character’s voice!
  • Oh, I know there will be objections. This is a negative review, after all. But I’m serious—if you doubt the conviction of my words, or doubt my dedication as a fan, watch “French Me, You Idiot” and then put on “How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days” and know there is no way I could pretend “Mom” was better than it was based on the precedent of the past.
  • Other things I asked for in my pregame: Better stunt casting (which has been very successful this year—Rhea is being overused, yeah, but she’s no Kevin Smith, Dana White, or James Franco), Yes-and characterization (not successful—there is no “and”), essential episodes and a stable arc (HMMMMM), and stability (mostly successful—the B-plots have almost always been strong this season, in one case being more interesting to me than the A-plot, which has never happened before on this show)


  1. Hmm, loved the video but the whole show can't be about them making out and doing love-eyes. I also think, if you look back at last season's episodes, up to episode 9, you wouldn't see a whole lot of romance there either. He realized he liked her in episode 8, right? And then, episode 9 was Mindy Lahiri is a racist. I think there is stuff to come here, obviously, but it's a funny show. I don't know what's going on with Tamra and Morgan, but I am on the team that feels like I'd be happy with less of the supporting characters in general. I hear all this stuff about how they need to "use their supporting cast" and my feeling is, no. No they don't. It could be 22 minutes of Mindy and Danny for all I care. So I might not be the ideal person to comment on the Morgan situation except that I hope that means we'll get Ray-Ron back at least once.

    1. Hi, anon!!! I think the best way to respond to you is to dissect what you've said one by one, because I have a lot of thoughts:

      "...loved the video but the whole show can't be about them making out and doing love-eyes."


      Here's the thing: frankly, I wasn't a huge fan of "Danny and Mindy" either--I felt that it was too cinematic, too catering to love eyes and to dramatic declarations of love (via homages to romantic comedies) rather than having Danny and Mindy exist in a place that is specific to them (as they did at the end of the first season). However, what I mean to say about that clip isn't that season three is bad because there are practically no love eyes or making out--it's that there is no history acknowledged and no warmth. In that small clip you get glimpses of Danny and Mindy's personalities (how she gets kicked out of the fountain, which is a callback, how he stays there, and how she flirtatiously bats at him to move along with her). You get warmth through more than heart eyes--you get it through the way he walks her down the street or the way it seems like these two people genuinely enjoy each other's company and that the other person makes them happy. In the third season, you don't have that hardly at all--especially in the episode I reviewed, where Mindy and Danny are so disconnected, and their most intimate moment (their half second of a kiss) is interrupted by the recurring cast.

      "I also think, if you look back at last season's episodes, up to episode 9, you wouldn't see a whole lot of romance there either."

      I respectfully disagree with this--and actually think the romance has been pretty constant with Mindy and Danny since the Pilot. While this isn't an exact answer to this statement, my defenses of Danny Castellano (part 1 for season 1 and part 2 for season 2) cover my feelings on Danny's feelings for Mindy: is part 1 and is part 2. You've Got Sext, the eighth episode, came after a lot of buildup.


    2. "He realized he liked her in episode 8, right? And then, episode 9 was Mindy Lahiri is a racist."

      M Lahiri is a Racist was underwhelming to me as an episode. Like this one, you could tell that its inspiration came from a "ha ha wouldn't that be funny?" space ("Ha ha wouldn't it be funny if we targeted critics who call Mindy racist?" "Ha ha wouldn't it be funny if Morgan dated Danny's mom?") rather than from a place of what these characters would actually do. MLIAR takes some stab at romance--it kind of has to, leading up to the Christmas episode--but it is actually not that romantic and is kind of weird (Danny has been with every race of woman). The best Danny and Mindy moment was the one that the third season could certainly afford, which was the last 7 seconds of MLIAR where Mindy correctly gets Jerry(?)'s name right.

      "I think there is stuff to come here, obviously, but it's a funny show."

      I would be willing to not voice my frustrations as much if this hadn't been a recurring pattern with the third season that wasn't a reality in the first and second--I actually liked Crimes and Ex-Demeanors for what it was, and I liked The Devil Wears Lands' End for what it was, though they both suffered from not convincing me or reminding me why Mindy and Danny are together.

      I also think there is stuff to come, so I am in your boat. My last review, Diary of a Mad Indian Woman, was for my first or second favorite episode of the season, because the last scene between Mindy and Danny did what I've been wanting this show to do for so long (acknowledge their shared history and how it has been actually kind of hard).

      "I don't know what's going on with Tamra and Morgan, but I am on the team that feels like I'd be happy with less of the supporting characters in general. I hear all this stuff about how they need to "use their supporting cast" and my feeling is, no. No they don't. It could be 22 minutes of Mindy and Danny for all I care."

      Hahahahaha, I agree with you! I think you can't have it both ways. You can't call your show an ensemble unless you feature the characters pretty evenly (despite there being a clear main), and you can't just feature 2 characters (Mindy and Danny) if you're gonna devote the A-plot to a character we met not that long ago (Annette) and a character we hardly know despite his being around for so long (Morgan). I want the latter more than the former, because I think the damage to the recurring cast is pretty irreconcilable. I think the best thing TMP could do in this way is, if they're gonna have recurring cast members, their B-plot stories need to parallel or say something about the A-plot that I really care about. The B plot can't support itself so it needs to support the A plot or else something is severely lacking!

      "So I might not be the ideal person to comment on the Morgan situation except that I hope that means we'll get Ray-Ron back at least once."

      YES! I love Ray-Ron. I do love the recurring cast when it is used appropriately--I love Richie, I love Ramon, I love Danny's dad, I love Ray Ron, I love all of Mindy's boyfriends but especially love Josh. I think the show can do that really well when it wants to! :)

      PS - I just saw your second comment -- YES YES YES DESLAURIER !!!!

  2. P.S. I realize I said I didn't care about supporting cast then said I wanted more Ray-Ron. But that is really because I realize we HAVE TO have other characters, so I feel like it might as well be Ray-Ron. Also Brendan Deslaurier.

  3. I agree that after the "are you going to stay or are you going to go" scene really created this arc. Then "How to lose a mom in 10 days" has no mention of something towards that. It doesn't surprise me that the mother didn't date after the father left. However, after reading your article I'm starting to think that maybe the point of the episode is that Danny has a tendency to lean towards his mother than Mindy which reflect on how "serious" he is about Mindy.

    Do you ever wonder what it would be like if we had met Annette before Alan? Hearing the father issues is weird just because we've established that he is already a changed man. But if Annette was introduced earlier, it would have definitely reflect Alan in a different light. Or at least we has the viewer would have scene the situation differently.

    Also, I think season 3 is more about typical issues that couples might face rather than creating an arc. But Diary of an Indian Women and tonight's episode definitely has created a shift in Danny and Mindy's relationship

    1. I think you bring up a ton of interesting points:

      A) I like the idea that Danny's mother is a crutch for Danny when he's afraid of doing stuff with Mindy. I think what makes me critical of this episode's use of that is that at the end of the episode Annette is still barging in. The only thing that's different is that Mindy's cool with it now, which is kind of confusing to me.

      B) NO, I HAVE NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT. That is such a cool thought. I would love to see Alan and Annette interact. I would love to see that Danny's everlasting love for his mother may be overcompensating for the hole his dad left (not to discredit his mom, but to maybe stop the worship of her and the need for her) and that his loathing of his dad is too much. But there definitely is some reconciliation there that needs to happen or some address of it that needs to happen. We were able to get away with the lack of Rhea last season because she hadn't been introduced yet, but now that Alan and Annette are introduced to us, I think both of those elements need to be played together.

      C) Yes, I think that might just be a subjective preference for me. I think that it is cool to be realistic, but I also think it's fair to be unrealistic, too, so long as the work -- whether it's a book, tv show, etka etka -- has a clear message, a clear point for our lives. That's why shows like Selfie, which are unrealistically saturated with Will they won't they moments, works for me (it's unrealistic but it's a study of two characters interacting at extremes to send a message about the importance of the middle ground) and why shows like Seinfeld work for me too (they are dismissive of romantic relationships and silly because its message is unflinchingly nothing) and why shows like Scrubs work for me too (it balances the zany and the not zany as the plot sees fit to say something--for example, it's unrealistic/creative license for 3 characters to get organs from the same patient in the same hospital, but the realistic part are the associated emotions with that).

      So why "typical issues" isn't enough is that it doesn't evoke any emotional response from me. Going through a laundry list of typical problems can only be made relevant if the characters shine through (it makes these stories relevant in their larger story which is ultimately relevant to us).

      This is word vomit but I hope it makes sense!