Few new TV shows have garnered more buzz than Fox's The Mindy Project, which chronicles the messy, self-sabotaging personal and professional life of a self-centered OB-GYN. The series is the brainchild of The Office's Mindy Kaling, who serves as Project's writer, producer, and star. The series premiered on Tuesday night alongside established hit New Girl and fellow freshman series Ben & Kate, with an episode in which Mindy navigated the travails of her dysfunctional love life (including an excruciatingly awkward toast at an ex-boyfriend's wedding) — even as she proves her competence as a doctor. (Watch The Mindy Project's premiere below.) Here, critics weigh in on what makes the show click:
1. Its main character is hilarious — and complicated:
Unlike many recent female sitcom protagonists — including Zooey Deschanel's character on sister-series New Girl — Mindy "is not an adorkable sweetheart," says Willa Paskin at Salon. Kaling's narcissistic protagonist is a fully-realized character, who exists outside of the lazy tropes that comparable TV shows use to justify their "sharp-tongued, self-identifying bitches." By offering a female protagonist who isn't simply sweet or damaged, The Mindy Project can focus on making its lead character both groundbreaking and hysterical.
2. It's a blend of the best female-centric TV series:
With The Mindy Project, Kaling has found a way to "do the same comedy riffs as New Girl, Bridesmaids, and Girls did and still surprise us," says Jennifer Keishin Armstrong at Vulture. Kaling's other obvious influences include female-centric classics like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Rhoda, and Sex and the City, though her character is "more relatable than Carrie Bradshaw." By combining the strengths of many of TV's best comedies targeting women, The Mindy Project creates something that feels both familiar and fresh.
3. It has some of the strongest writing on TV:
The Mindy Project's key strength is the "sharp, funny, and biting" scripts, which recall the dialogue of the best romantic comedies, says Tierney Bricker of E! Online. Boding well for the show's long-term future, Kaling's character already feels like a charming, frustrating friend; after a single episode, you'll feel like you "want to grab a drink with her," but you'll also "want to hit her over the head with a copy of He's Just Not That Into You."
4. Kaling is a refreshingly unconventional leading lady:
Two things make Mindy Kaling an unconventional (and welcome) sitcom lead, says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter: She's an Indian-American, and "she's not — as they say in Hollywood — a 'traditional' size." For decades, TV has either pigeonholed minority actresses and curvier actresses as supporting players, or barred them from the screen altogether. But Kaling's character in The Mindy Project is notably "body confident." If The Mindy Project can catch on with audiences, it can also "change the paradigm" that makes the TV landscape less than diverse.