Friday, November 23, 2012

The Mindy Project celebrates "Thanksgiving"

One conceit of television that sort of goes against reality is that Thanksgiving is a time for families, but usually casts of characters gather with friends instead. Sure, we get the occasional relative stopping by as a guest star. But it's not the same as the main characters each returning to their homes every year for the holiday, which is what most of us do in real life. I was surprised, then, that while The Mindy Project did not exactly divide up everyone, there were distinct groups who split up.

The most realistic thread involved Betsy (Zoe Jarman) visiting her clan, with Jeremy (Ed Weeks), who isn't native to America, tagging along. Too bad Betsy is also the least interesting character on the series. Jeremy gets along splendidly with her relations, as he almost always does with whoever he happens to be in the presence of, while Betsy reverts to childlike behavior. Sadly, it didn't seem all that interesting or novel for Betsy to act like this, and Jeremy is just along for the ride.

The better story involves Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) attending Gwen's (Anna Camp) large party. True, this isn't a family affair, but it does give Mindy the chance to pine over Josh (Tommy Dewey), while also bumping into her ex, Dennis (Ed Helms). Ex may be too strong a word, considering they only shared one date (in the first episode of the series), but Dennis functions here as if they'd been in a relationship. Mindy's antics, while over-the-top, as expected, are amusing. It's just too bad there isn't more for Morgan to do.

Meanwhile, Shauna (Amanda Setton) goes minibar hopping with her girlfriends. If any character would blow off their family on Thanksgiving, it would be Shuana, so this actually makes sense, even though she is barely seen and doesn't actually get plot in the episode. This is typical for her, which is probably why her character will soon be departing the show. Too bad, because her personality isn't matched by any other character, and she shifts the group dynamics in an interesting way.

While I am slowly warming up to The Mindy Project, I do feel like the best characters sometimes get shafted in favor of less intriguing people. I'm not complaining about Mindy, the star of the show, who is doing just fine with her arcs. But I really like Morgan and Shauna, and they take back seats to Jeremy and Betsy, who aren't nearly as compelling. A few tweaks to the formula would be nice.

The best part of The Mindy Project, week in and week out, is Danny (Chris Messina). In "Thanksgiving," he hangs out alone in the empty office. This totally gels with his character, and he seems happy while doing it. Other shows might force him to eventually show up at a gathering, regretting his decision to fly solo. Not The Mindy Project. This is who Danny is, and while he may want to be with Mindy, he is patient enough to wait for her to want to be with him, and he's not going to show up at some party he doesn't want to be at to speed things along. He kind of already does that with the dance club a few weeks ago, and so now he has learned his lesson and stays true to himself.

Of course, The Mindy Project doesn't abandon the friends-getting-together trope entirely. At the end of "Thanksgiving," they all send each other pictures with their camera phones. This shows that they do think of each other as family, and it will not be surprising if the main cast gathers together in some future holiday episode. Let's hope not, though, because if Mindy just sticks to the things about it that set it apart from the rest of the fodder out there, this could be a really good series.

The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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