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Tag Archives: “What next?”

The Mindy Project, Nora Ephron and the Many Roads Traveled  

22 Mar

Commenting on Nora Ephron’s influence on Mindy Kaling is not like cracking an undiscovered code as the references to Ephron’s work in style and tone weaves its way through The Mindy Project. The nods come in a variety of ways and yet this is no copycat as Kaling’s voice is clear and her own; instead she uses what are now considered rom-com tropes (some of which Ephron pioneered) as jumping off points to subvert or celebrate.

The Mindy ProjectMindy Kaling’s love of this sadly currently much maligned genre (good rom-coms still exist with indie dominating in the decent stakes) is worn on her sleeve, sometimes also covered in hearts. With The Mindy Project this season we have seen what happens after the credits normally roll on a rom-com movie, as the couple has beaten whatever obstacle split them up mid story and they ask “What next?” This entails crossing into potentially creative choppy waters by turning a “will they/won’t they” couple into Facebook official and with whole new set of plot points to keep the tension high. Other shows have tried and failed with curses being cited to explain why others should be wary of attempting this shift. And of course we know the curse talk is bs; there are plenty of shows which have proved this and The Mindy Project is a shining example of why a “will they/won’t they” couple should take the plunge rather than forever dancing around maybe.

Returning to the influence factor and I recently bought The Most of Nora Ephron – an anthology of Ephron’s writing both fiction and non-fiction – and while I’ve previously read a lot of these pieces (and they’re so worth rereading) some are completely new to me. Quotes stand out with “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim” being one of the defining Ephron sentiments, but it was while I burned my way through this book that I realized I had never read or seen the speech it came from in full. It is Nora Ephron’s commencement address to the Wellesley Class of 1996 which unleashed this inspiring notion (I say this in all sincerity while also eye rolling at myself) and one which is particularly relevant to Mindy’s journey this season.

In it Ephron discusses the dreaded ‘having it all’ debate and she manages to do it in a way which elicits fist pumps, giving the kind of confidence boost I mentioned in reference to Broad City last week. Here is a big, fabulous section which feels like it rather successfully points to Mindy Lahiri’s journey this season.

“Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. And this is something else I want to tell you, one of the hundreds of things I didn’t know when I was sitting here so many years ago: you are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever.”

Mindy faced messiness and triumph in both her personal and professional life this season; she moved to San Francisco to further her career and moved back to New York to create something of her own. With Danny there have been bumps along the way and a bump of another kind changes this dynamic in an unplanned way for the couple. While everything is moving with some haste – which could be attributed to uncertainty about renewal – the confidence with how The Mindy Project has plotted the Mindy/Danny arc reads like the message in Ephron’s address.

For most of this season TV Ate My Wardrobe has focussed on the amazing costume design elements and along with the Mindy/Danny pairing this is where Mindy really shines. Yes there are other elements which are still on the messy side including the supporting cast revolving door – miss you, Adam Pally – and Jeremy’s been through so many tweaks it’s hard to remember which version of this character we are now viewing.

The season 3 finale is tonight, hopefully not the series finale because I want to see how Mindy and Danny will handle the next stage in their life and I want to see how this show will deal with having a baby. Their work place is babies, not their home life and we don’t tend to see any even there. Plus I like the idea of Mindy playing Ephron’s five things game:

“We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was your age, I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy. Whatever those five things are for you today, they won’t make the list in ten years—not that you still won’t be some of those things, but they won’t be the five most important things about you.”

Confidence will bleed through and I’m pretty sure hot will definitely be on there no matter how many different roads present themselves for Mindy Lahiri; I just really want to see this next part of her journey.

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The Mindy Project and the Rom-Com Narrative Part 5

18 Sep

A year has passed since the first Mindy Project and the Rom-Com Narrative column and what started as a standalone piece has produced multiple parts and spinoffs (incorporating New Girl and the “What Next?”). The Mindy Project plays with the rom-com formula with direct references to Nora Ephron classics like When Harry Met Sally while using traditional rom-com devices such as voiceover and subverting the genre through a strong awareness of the common tropes. In the first episode of season 3 big steps have been made as Danny and Mindy have progressed from friends, to lovers to exes and now to a couple who are not hiding their relationship from their co-workers. Smooth sailing from here then, right?

The Mindy Project 3.01Well that wouldn’t be interesting would it? There are plenty of obstacles and conflicts ahead for this new couple; the biggest one being how diametrically opposite they are about pretty much everything besides how they feel about each other. Last season Danny went through a stage of not wanting anyone to know about their relationship and then he tried to use the ‘you’re my best friend and I don’t want to lose you’ excuse as a reason to split up. Mindy saw through Danny’s scared BS and she didn’t just take him back when he simply tried to kiss her. This was one heartbreak that really hurt and so it required a little more than Danny simply responding in a possessive manner to the new dude in Mindy’s life.

They are a couple now, haters (bitches) and as I have mentioned throughout this rom-com series the “will they/won’t they” then turns into a “What next?” as they have to deal with what normally comes after the credits of a movie. The story doesn’t just end with smooching at the top of the Empire State Building.

The new season opens with Danny as the narrator mentioning the unlikelihood of this coupling when the show started and his assertion that they are very different is backed up with Mindy’s portion of the voiceover. Mindy likes to share and this is what lies at the heart of their first fight this season; it doesn’t matter that Mindy is very complimentary about Danny’s technique as it still makes him incredibly uncomfortable. Throw in a secret stripping past plus a piece of office gossip and we’ve got our first Mindy and Danny raging argument of season 3 as Danny tells Mindy that he can’t trust her. Trust is a relationship dealbreaker so are things looking precarious already?

[Source]

Far from it and while I am sure that somewhere down the line there will be a string of misunderstandings that might lead to something more contentious, this disagreement ends up with Danny spilling a lot more about himself including his Diamond Dan stripping past (which not only paid for medical school, but also allowed him to pay the mortgage on his mother’s house) and that he does have a middle name. His middle name is Alan after his dad and last season we found out more about his fractured relationship with his father with Mindy getting to witness Danny’s emotionally vulnerable side. The first time Danny kissed Mindy was on the plane ride home after this trip to see Danny’s father; boundaries got dropped all over the place.

Part of the appeal of this couple is the back and forth banter, which on occasion crosses the line with a derogatory remark about appearance such as Danny telling Mindy “get your big ass in there now” in the season 3 premiere. Comments like this cause much furrowing of the brow; Danny does refer to himself “as kind of a dick back then” in his opening narration and these moments do still slip in and on this occasion his annoyance at Mindy’s inability to keep secrets causes this unpleasant outburst. Danny is rough around the edges – not an excuse for his behavior, but an observation – and yet those edges have softened.

The list he has prepared is a big step, as is Mindy’s confession explaining why she has been so vocal about their relationship “I want it to be real and the more real it seems, the less likely it is that it could all get taken away from me.” Mindy wears her romantic temperament on her sleeve, but this level of honesty and vulnerability is rare from this character too. This statement solidifies their commitment to each other and it also signifies to the audience that we shouldn’t expect a break up in the next few episodes; they are at least in this for some sort of long haul. It is a welcome gesture as sometimes with a “will they/won’t they” couple it is easy to feel emotionally manipulated if there is a constant stream of “oh we’re almost a couple, now we’re not, now we are, oops broken up again” shenanigans. You know what else is a welcome gesture? This.

[Source – includes whole sequence]

As I said at the start of this piece conflict and obstacles should continue, but there has to be a reason for it. Danny and Mindy as an opposites attract coupling should provide plenty of material for this, however scenes like the one on the fire escape are important and still offer opportunity for absurdist/dark humor such as the kitchen knife Mindy accidentally drops followed by the sound of sirens. This first episode back is promising and this pairing is the strongest/most consistent on The Mindy Project; now they are a couple there are a new series of challenges and I am hopeful that this creative team will blast any Moonlighting curse nonsense out of the water so we can stop citing this a reason why a “will they/won’t they” shouldn’t progress to “What next?”

New Season Artwork for The Mindy Project and New Girl

30 Jul

The Mindy Project and New Girl return on Tuesday, September 16 (for their third and fourth seasons) and both ended in very different places for the central couple; grand romantic gestures and a reconciliation that didn’t happen. The new season artwork reflects both of these things with The Mindy Project focusing on Mindy and Danny, with New Girl maintaining its focus on the entire group of friends.

The Mindy Project S3Photographer Emily Schur has been shooting Mindy Kaling for 10 years and yesterday she released this Mindy Project photo on Instagram/Tumblr. It’s a fun shot focusing on this new relationship and one they are going public with this time (the season premiere title has been slightly altered sadly to “We’re a Couple Now, Haters”). Danny’s super adorable red reading glasses make an appearance and Mindy’s Three J NYC polka dot pajamas are still on our wish list. The Mindy Project is often at its strongest when addressing Mindy and Danny’s complicated friendship and now romance so I am very excited about this forthcoming season.

New Girl S4New Girl had a messy season 3 and I don’t lay the blame solely at the feet of Nick and Jess as a couple; for me this was one of the stronger aspects aside from some of the contrived fights. It did have an impact on the structure of the other relationships and the group dynamic suffered as a result. Returning things to ‘just friends’ could be awkward as part of the tagline suggests; they’re both ‘Idiots’ when it comes to romance (ditto everyone else in the loft). New Girl tried one set up that for one reason or another just didn’t work and now they must rise to the challenge of hitting what was a season 2 sweet spot, but with everything else that has occurred in-between. Damon Wayans Jr. has been made a regular much to my delight and his addition last year was one factor that really worked. The first episode of season 4 is called “The Last Wedding” and will guest star Jessica Biel.

On this poster Zooey Deschanel is wearing a Ted Baker ‘Halina” dress with a blue Kate Spade ‘Pyramid Bow’ belt. Off to go hunt for some super cute electric blue flats.

And the First Episode of The Mindy Project Season 3 is Called…

3 Jul

First up a disclaimer as episode titles do sometimes change between pre-production and their air date. With that in mind, I hope this one doesn’t get altered* as it is pretty emphatic in regards to a certain relationship status. Mindy Kaling has posted the script title page on Instagram and it is as follows:

View this post on Instagram

Get excited #themindyproject

A post shared by Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) on

Suggesting “We’re a Couple Now, Bitches” is referring to Mindy and Danny isn’t a wild guess and it looks like they are ready to take the next big step after their last stalled attempt.

I’m really excited to see how The Mindy Project tackles the “What next?” that rom-com movies tend to escape as the end credits hit at this point. Mindy in a long term relationship is not a new prospect as she’s had a couple of serious relationships on the show, however it is an entirely different setup to her previous beaus as Mindy and Danny have been the central “will they/won’t they” on The Mindy Project. This also means I’ll get to write a whole lot more about some of my favorite sitcom tropes/story arcs and Mindy Kaling has experience with writing a beloved couple going from friends to something more thanks to her time on The Office.

*I spoke too soon as this episode title has indeed been altered to “We’re a Couple Now, Haters” with Mindy Kaling explaining ” It was changed to “haters” because people could be offended by “bitches”. Thus is life.” Le sigh. 

New Girl 3.21 “Big News” Review – “Faaaaaaaantastic”

16 Apr

When we first met Nick and Jess in the New Girl pilot both of them were dealing with breakups – Jess’ was of the immediate kind and it’s why she moved into the loft in the first place and Nick was still in his drunk dialing Caroline phase. Cheating and a lack of attention were the reasons behind these splits. Cut to the present day and they’re both dealing with a whole new kind of breakup; the reason behind their split does have a whiff of end of season dramaz as it’s all down to how much (or rather how little) they have in common. Nick and Jess still love each other, it’s just the other stuff that has got in the way.

There’s been a lot of talk on here of “What next?” and the “will they/won’t they” on New Girl and The Mindy Project and while this is only the first episode exploring the other end of the sitcom romance, “Big News” is quite possibly the best episode of this uneven season.

New_Girl_Ep321-Sc26_S0A2065This big breakup comes after the pair just started sharing a room and this is something that was semi forced upon them in the first place ; their relationship is already following a somewhat non-traditional trajectory as they started dating when they were already roommates. This already impacts on those big couple milestones as they already lived together before they’d had their first date.* The second half of last season was all about navigating the getting together, whereas the bumps this year have all been around the big declarations -using boyfriend/girlfriend, the first “I love you” and effectively moving in together. The latter meant that even though they were already living together, being in such close quarters led to this examination of just how different they are and the hangover they were both suffering from in the last episode magnified these issues.

*On their first date they bumped into Russell and he made them write down what they think they are to each other. Now we never got to find out what either of them wrote, but this moment is indicative of what is happening right now with them. They still don’t really know what they are and it’s something the show clearly wants to explore beyond just boyfriend/girlfriend shenanigans. 

“Big News” is the day after the breakup (and I really wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t suffering from a two day hangover, those are the worst) and thanks to Nick’s Memento style hand notes he knows this isn’t a dream. The sight of the make shift bed on the floor is pretty devastating, that is until Nick’s high pitch scream of wonder makes everything fine just for a moment. So what are the rules for Nick and Jess? Well first of all boob season is over and that’s about all they figured out; by the end of the episode they still don’t have much else as Jess doesn’t know where she is going to sleep (why not at Cece’s?) and they don’t know what to call each other. Nick goes for “honey” which is adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. One thing is clear and that is neither of them are OK, no matter how much they say they are at the start.

Thanks to some very good news for Winston – he got into the police academy! – they decide to put off telling everyone so Winston can bask in joy. This could get tired very quickly, but instead of having Nick and Jess enduring the episode together, they spend the first half trying to deal with their misery without talking to anyone from the loft. The first port of call is ringing Jess’ mom and she’s more cut up than Jess is as she’s dealing with lack of grandchild prospects anxiety. Nick heads to the park and to work through his feelings with Tran (who he had to get out of dance class) and this conversation is as ridiculous and one sided as all of Nick’s Tran therapy sessions.

Advice is flowing from all corners as Jess tells Cece and Coach’s concerned voice coaxes it out of Nick. While Cece gives good advice (talk to him), Coach tells Nick to go down the “you should hide your feelings” route coupled with taking some of Schmidt’s anti-anxiety pills. As Jess and Nick have seen how broken the other has been post big breakup this “I’m fine” route is bad for them, but makes for damn good comedy. This coupled with everyone knowing except Winston, who is enjoying new career happiness and the amount of wine Jess – having a holiday pour – consumes means the honey roast is at times hilarious and also incredibly painful. Zooey Deschanel gives a standout performance and drunk acting can easily stray into over the top and nonsensical. Instead what Deschanel does is show Jess’ sadness and hurt at how fine Nick is, grounding it and all while she is dressed as Ferguson. Nick’s wearing sunglasses to mask his winking twitchy eyes (thanks to the medication) and it’s one of those scenes that has so many farcical elements (including Winston’s white tails) and still hits every single emotional cue.

Jess isn’t so good with the roasting even if she’s terrifying when she insists IT’S MY TURN pointing out that Coach needs to buy ordinary pants, Cece’s hair is so long and Schmidt has a big head. Jess never gets to Winston as she reveals what word Nick says when he climaxes (Yahtzee) and the names he uses for birds (wind mice) and turtles (shell beavers) and as the tears brim in her eyes she utters the worst thing which is “he’s ok and I am not ok.” This TV season has seen a shift in the kind of shows that have elicited a misty eyed reaction from me and with probably the exception of The Good Wife it is comedy that has been the source of most of my tears. Sometimes this is a happy response – generally Parks and Recreation – but there are a lot of sitcoms that have been dealing with a whole host of tragedy whether it is something like Enlisted and it’s examination of PTSD, the Mother singing to her now dead love in How I Met Your Mother or simply a break up sitcoms have been killing it this year with the emotional spectrum. New Girl can be added to the list (I’ve just remembered it made me teary earlier this season when Nick put together that video package for Jess *sob*) and it’s a testament to both Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel that they really sell this heartbreak while also playing wasted.

With Spencer (Jess’ boyfriend from the pilot) and Caroline we have no emotional connection to either of them or their relationships with Jess and Nick so the Dirty Dancing repeat watching and drunk dialing don’t mean much more than a visual gag. Now it holds so much more meaning and the closing scene of the episode brings us full circle to the pilot, but Nick and Jess are not the people we met three years ago. Yes they still have their comforts (booze and Patrick Swayze), however these things were solo wallowing ventures in the past, now they are sharing them in this breakup together and as they both sing-along to “Hungry Eyes” from different rooms I think these kids still have a chance. It’s just New Girl has to learn how to be again without them together.

The day was meant to be all about Winston and while the gang try all they can do to make this the case, it is of course very much a Nick/Jess episode. This is the Winston thing and it reminded me of his birthday last year when everyone forgot and he spent the episode thinking things were about him, when everyone was preoccupied with Cece’s wedding and Jess and Nick sleeping together for the first time.

There are two episodes left of season 3 and they will no doubt be figuring out how to deal with the logistics of the breakup. One reason why “Big News” works so well is that while the focus is on Nick and Jess, it’s also very much a group episode; so hopefully time apart from each other will allow for more Cece/Jess (something that has been lacking this season) and dude bonding. The romantic aspect is one I am invested in, but at the heart of New Girl are these friendships so like Nick and Jess I want to see what this show will do as it leans towards these relationships instead of just the big love story.

How to Deal with the “What Next?” on The Mindy Project and New Girl

9 Apr

Did TV decide to stomp all over our hearts at the exact same time? It feels like just a week ago (ok it was just a week ago) that I was praising The Mindy Project for producing a bright spark of happiness on a TV horizon littered with breakups, deaths, ill advised hook-ups and general misery. There was smooching and Danny showed his commitment through Bridget Jones’s Diary (with bonus voices) and it looked like the “What next?” was going to turn into coupledom. Alas those dreams have been squashed as Danny could commit to Mindy in private, but not in public and now they’re in that awkward ‘something happened and now we’re done phase.’ They got to that phase real quick.

While I’m not equating New Girl and The Mindy Project to being the same show, they are currently on a similar path with their central romance story. The big kiss moment also occurred in the same episode of the season – 2.15 – and while New Girl used the rest of the season to get to that place of being together, Mindy went all in straight away. It also went all out at a much quicker rate.

Mindy Project“Why did you kiss me, Danny? Why did you even start this?”

In a tearful scene that ended Mindy and Danny before they’d even really begun, Danny pulls the plug citing his fear that he will lose his best friend. Mindy doesn’t take this lightly, telling him the friendship card is “garbage.” Basically he thinks he is terrible at relationships (because he’s just been reminded how terrible he is) and he comes up with a scenario where it all ends horribly. Mindy has an alternative view and thinks they will argue, but they will always makeup. This isn’t enough to convince Danny who bails and it feels all too sudden for such a long build-up. Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina sell the devastation of this moment and now The Mindy Project joins the increasingly long list of comedy shows that have made me tear up this season. It’s a great scene, even if it made me want to throw things.

NewGirl-Ep319_TBD-Sc25_00927It’s the TV show problem of the “What next?” as the screen doesn’t fade to black at this point and the story continues. Breaking up creates conflict and we’re at that point where a lot of shows are rolling out their big dramaz to build towards the end of the season. This is the case of New Girl which saw Nick and Jess reluctantly call it quits after an episode of arguing and longing for what they had when they were friends. In a sense both “will they/won’t they” scenarios are hampered by proximity; in Mindy they work together, they’re roommates on New Girl and so a romance has instant ramifications as does a breakup. Getting together/breaking up that’s the cycle of a sitcom romance and it’s been a problem for multiple shows over the years to resolve this and keep the story going without pissing off and losing an audience. Ross and Rachel became a burden long after Ross first yelled “We were on a break” and the recent How I Met Your Mother finale underscores this point with who Ted ended up.

There is no easy out, no single story idea that will work for every show and the breaking up aspect is part of sitcoms. Without conflict and high stakes you end up with a Ben and Leslie (who I adore) and while that works for Parks and Recreation, it helps that there is enough other drama in this world that means they don’t have to focus on romantic tension. Maybe Nick and Jess were becoming too complacent this season and I am equal parts annoyed and intrigued with this development. With Mindy and Danny it feels too abrupt, there has been little time for them to grow romantically and I want to see where they will take this pairing next. If nothing else it’s helped a great deal with Peter and his friendship with Mindy is now just as important to me. Good solid work from Adam Pally.

Whatever both shows plan on doing with their final episodes this season, I can but at least hope for something a little less devastating than what the last few weeks of TV has delivered. This is some darkest timeline level of shenanigans that we’ve been experiencing of late.

Julie Hammerle

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