Tag Archives: When Harry Met Sally

The Mindy Project and the Rom-Com Narrative

11 Sep

The Mindy Project had a bumpy first season and while most sitcoms take about 6-12 episodes to iron out the kinks, Mindy was still figuring it out by the end of its first year. The cast departures and replacements changed some aspects of the workplace set up and Anna Camp went from a regular to guest star as it became clear that Mindy’s best friend Gwen couldn’t organically fit into each episode. There are a few aspects that have been consistent from episode 1; great guest stars, a solid (mostly platonic) chemistry between Mindy and Danny and a strong awareness of the rom-com genre they are referencing.

Mindy and Danny

A show needs more than this to be a success and the season 2 opener (now available to watch on Hulu and Fox.com) features all of these attributes – including a funny turn from James Franco – and aside from a weak Jeremy story it’s a strong return. The season finale took a bold move with Mindy and Danny and plays into the overall rom-com narrative. Prior to the finale I wrote:

“I don’t need to see them hooking up any time soon as their dynamic is interesting without these kinds of complications, but it’s good to know that when the inevitable happens they have built up their relationship from antagonists to friends.”

I’m still of this opinion and sadly I think the purely platonic phase of their relationship has passed; the closing moments of the finale sealed this and the season 2 premiere adds to the nails in this platonic coffin. The Mindy/Danny relationship isn’t the shows strongest aspect because of all of the sexual tension and I haven’t been clamoring for them to hook up in the same way I was with say Nick and Jess on New Girl.

It’s rare that you get a great male/female friendship on screen and so far I have been friendship shipping them but as Mindy Kaling is emulating both the rom-com format and the undisputed rom-com queen Nora Ephron, it is inevitable that the barbs traded between these two characters would turn into longing looks and sexual tension. I’m fighting against myself with this one as I get sucked into the Mindy/Danny tension and I simultaneously booed and cheered at the final scene of season 1; I really want them to stay just friends, but I can also see that the chemistry they share isn’t simply platonic. Damn you Chris Messina with your swoon worthy face.

It was only recently that I watched When Harry Met Sally (I know, I know) and the idea that men and women can’t be friends “because the sex part always gets in the way” is one that I don’t agree with in real life, but it’s definitely a prevalent notion in rom-coms. The Mindy Project is invoking this with Danny and Mindy and the other staple of this genre has been put into play; the “will they/won’t they.” This type of relationship isn’t just for the sitcoms, dramas do it well enough too and enhancing this kind of tension is a way to create a season long narrative with plenty of obstacles in the way.

The issue that The Mindy Project might have with this development is that Mindy and Danny are one of the shows strongest pairings and there are other aspects that need to improve. The overall dynamic of the workplace is fine, but they really need to develop Jeremy and the first episode back reveals this is still a problematic area. I like all of the high profile guest stars – the Seth Rogen episode is a season 1 highlight – but some of that time needs to be devoted to the underdeveloped characters we see each week.

The Mindy Project might end up using the “will they/won’t they” to turn this rom-com staple on its head or it could simply be following the well traveled path and there’s nothing subversive about where this storyline is headed.

Julie Hammerle

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