'The Mindy Project,' 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox beginning tonight (Sept. 25)
Three stars (out of four)
Mindy Kaling seems blithely self-confident, but it's an awkward confidence, one that attempts to hide deep insecurity. In last year's memoir, "Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)," Kaling described a childhood in which she didn't really fit in, and a love life in which she frequently made all the wrong moves.
When Kaling decided to leave "The Office" and create a sitcom, and a lead character, for herself, she gave her TV alter ego the same traits, heightened.
In "The Mindy Project," making its debut tonight (Tuesday, Sept. 25) on Fox, Kaling plays a successful OB-GYN named Mindy Lahiri, whose personal life is a complete mess, mostly thanks to her frequent wrong moves. But she's an eternal optimist, crazy about romantic comedies and sure her happy ending is still out there somewhere, if she can just grab it tightly enough.
Kaling is happy to make fun of herself to get a laugh, and her most painful scenes are some of the most amusing in "The Mindy Project," which is far from perfect but still one of the top prospects among new fall comedies.
Many of her low moments come courtesy of Chris Messina as Danny, a fellow doctor determined to puncture needy Mindy's ego whenever possible. Clearly they're made for each other, right?
Stephen Tobolowsky and Anna Camp also star in "The Mindy Project," with Ed Weeks as the hunky hospital guy with whom Mindy enjoys casual sex. Ed Helms has a nice guest spot in the pilot, and Bill Hader turns up as her former boyfriend, whose wedding prompts a drunken toast that Mindy can never get back.
There are laughs in "The Mindy Project," something that can't be said for every new fall comedy. I suspect, though, that Kaling and her character will be polarizing and that viewers will love them or hate them. Love the two Mindys and "The Mindy Project" may become your favorite new show.