Last Night’s Telly: New Girl and The Mindy Project

New Girl / Mindy Project

So last night, E4 broadcast the first episode of the second season of New Girl and the first episode of brand new show The Mindy Project. Before I get into the review a few caveats;

  1. I watched them on E4+1 because I was watching England play fairly well in the first half and the capitulate in the second, also due to footballing reasons, I had a few beers.
  2. I was writing the news (despite Mark Rofe having the byline) at the same time as watching these programmes.
  3. I’ve already seen New Girl as I’m watching it at US pace, but in a similiar vein to the BBC4 Parks and Rec rewatch, which I’ll get round to writing about at some point, it’s refreshing to revisit old story arcs with a perspective from the future. You get to pick up on little bits of foreshadowing, intentional or otherwise depending on how much credit you give to the writers.

Right then, on the with shows. If you’ve watched E4 at all in the past few weeks you won’t have been able to miss the trailers for these shows, along with the one for Youngers they’ve probably had more airtime than Hollyoaks on the channel.

Being a huge fan of The Office, I was relatively excited about The Mindy Project coming to the UK. The trailer promised me a drunk girl riding a bike into a swimming pool (always, always funny), lots of references to romantic comedies, Ed Helms and some sharp dialogue.

AS I’ve said, riding a bike into a swimming pool doesn’t stop being funny. The central characters obsession with romantic comedies is a nice gimmick, that informs the style of the show, Mindy could almost be described as the Abed of Romcoms (don’t know who Abed is? Get watching Community (but only the first three seasons)), and the difference between her life and her imagined life is played for a few good laughs.

The problem is that Mindy’s life isn’t that far from a romantic comedy, she’s a successful doctor who’s unlucky in love and surrounded by good looking doctors, the sleazy British one and the charming but gets into fights at Springsteen concerts one. On first impression, I was getting a very Scrubs like vibe, but it’s just occurred to me that the previous could easily be describing the central premise of Green Wing.

Ed Helms was in it, but the writers didn’t really seem to know what to do with him, so he had one scene where he made (admittedly funny) faces while Mindy talked a lot.  There were laughs in the show, but it wasn’t quite as fast paced as I’ve come to expect from (good) American sitcoms. Not every line has to be a joke, although it helps. There were some weird pauses left by the other members, almost like the show half expects a laughter track that offsets with Mindy’s neurotic fast talking character.

The show has potential, and I’m prepared to give it a few more episodes to find it’s feet, a solid but not hilarious pilot episode.

Onto New Girl, which was also fairly amusing. There’s some big changes going on in the first episode of Season 2, spoilers ahead. The plot was propelled by Schmidt throwing a party to celebrate his penis working again, and Jess losing her job and ending up working as a shot girl at the bar. Cece has a new boyfriend Robbie, who appears to be the anti Schmidt. Nick is trying to help Jess get over losing her job, but niceness isn’t his strong point.

Winston is relegated to cutaway gags this episode, his plot being that he can’t handle the girly drinks that Nick specialised in making while at College. Schmidt executed the episodes fiery set piece hilariously poorly. The best bits of the episode were found in sowing the seeds of Nick and Jess’s relationship, which I think everyone has seen coming from the very beginning. Another strong debut.

One final point, I felt the marketing of the shows gave a very strong impression of these sitcoms being “girl” shows, which was a little unsettling. We should be applauding shows with strong female leads and female show-runners, but not by pidgeonholing them into gender specific shows. (I feel like I have a point here, but I’m missing it and sounding sexist. That’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Funny should be funny regardless of gender. As soon as you start making or marketing  a show “that girls will like” too many dangerous assumptions are being made.)