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The Mindy Project Needs To Quit Trying To Put Mindy In Long-Term Relationships

Tara's not a crackpot. She just thinks The Mindy Project's Mindy should be more like Seinfeld's Jerry.

The Mindy Project returns for its midseason premiere with a fanciful episode in the vein of its Season 4 opener: whereas that one was sort of a riff on Sliding Doors, this one has Mindy reliving a single Wednesday Groundhog Day-style so that she can figure out how to quit being so selfish and turn into the kind of girlfriend Ben deserves by letting him tell her about his interests and relating to his specific needs as a person. Her reward is that Ben flies straight back from dropping off his daughter with her mom in St. Louis to tell Mindy that, despite her having made out with Jamie in the previous episode, he wants to give their relationship another shot. To this viewer, though, this is exactly the wrong lesson for Mindy to learn.

I am not a crackpot. I just think the show needs to quit trying to pair Mindy up with long-term boyfriends, forever.

Created by an avowed lover of romantic comedies in general and the Nora Ephron oeuvre in particular, The Mindy Project came into the world as a story about its heroine's complicated love life. At the same time, anyone who'd ever even heard of a romantic comedy knew as soon as we met her crabby co-worker/sparring partner Danny that the two of them were eventually going to end up together -- which, in the show's second season, they did. Before long, they were dealing with her accidental pregnancy, and when Danny made the big move of impetuously traveling to India to declare his love for Mindy to her parents, it seemed like things were all sewn up for them. But after a run of episodes in which the couple slowly drifted apart (or...literally were apart, with Chris Messina "appearing" only via text), the show made the bold and far more interesting choice of showing us the excellent reasons they should break up. Over the next several episodes, we got to the point where I was advocating for Danny's death, partly just because watching Mindy ping-ponging between Danny and whichever guy she's dating at any given time is very boring.

But there's another issue with Mindy's serial monogamy: if we've seen TV before, we know that we don't need to get that invested in any relationship she might get into when it's with a guy who's portrayed by someone who's not in the show's opening credits. This is why I thought Jody might actually be a real prospect for Mindy (though the fact that he's not even in this midseason premiere episode makes me wonder if Garret Dillahunt's on the way out, too). Certainly, it won't do Mindy harm to learn how to be more interested in her partners, and Ben is very cute, so I'm not that mad that he's still got a reason to stay on the show. But...for how long? I'm honestly asking! Is he just another placeholder? How much can I really afford to care about him?

"What's Mindy supposed to do? Come out as asexual?" Good lord, no. There's already a model for how a titular TV protagonist can do relationships: Seinfeld. We knew there was never going to be a fifth actor in the opening credits, so every new guy or girl that the dudes or Elaine dated* was there for story purposes and nothing more, and THAT WORKED FINE. "But Mindy has a child! Leo deserves a new dad!" Why? Maybe you didn't notice but Leo didn't appear in this midseason premiere episode at all. He's got a dad who lives offscreen; Leo would be just fine staying there too, leaving Mindy to conduct her sex life on the days and nights when Leo's at his dad's. In fact, Mindy Kaling is already on the record about how much or little Leo shows up on the show.

Kaling is also on the record saying that one of the things she enjoys about her job is making out with her co-stars. Since she's the boss, why not maximize her fun by bringing in a hot new piece of ass with every episode? This viewer is just as interested in seeing thirty- to fortysomething dudes objectified as Kaling is in objectifying them. Let Mindy date around like Jerry did and literally everybody wins. I am not a crackpot.

*exceptions noted: Susan; Puddy
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