Masterfully weaving together elements of comedy and romance without being overtly cliché is a difficult feat. Thankfully, The Mindy Project is stocked with witty, creative writers who are unafraid of leaning into classically complicated tropes to make them fresh and original. One clear example is the season one finale episode “Take Me with You” written by Mindy Kaling and Jeremy Bronson. Both writer’s careers are littered with household names – Mindy from The Office, an off-Broadway play Matt & Ben, and a host of stand-up comedy tours, and Jeremy from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Grandfathered, and Speechless. Outside of television, both wrote for their respective college newspapers (The Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern and the Harvard Lampoon) and Mindy has written two bestselling memoirs.
The fast pace nature of the show is what allows it to follow rom-com tropes without feeling overdone or boring. Specifically, Mindy is shown trying to seem “outdoorsy” on a camping trip to prove she is ready to move to Haiti with her boyfriend. The writing here uses the tent to demonstrate Mindy feeling trapped in her current relationship. The dialogue is quick to respond to the events bothering Mindy – before she is finished politely explaining why the lack of space is suffocating, the next irritation is already executed.
With most of the show’s dialogue being conversational, the lack of dialogue in scenes are notable. However, while there are periods of time when no one is speaking, there is never pure silence. Pivotal moments are emphasized with no dialogue, only music. This was used three times in the season finale. The first moment was Mindy alone, eating cake, overlaid with soft classical music. This returns to the main theme of the show – life will never work flawlessly, even when it externally looks perfect. She seems to have everything – the handsome boyfriend and a strong career, but she still retreats to be alone. This establishes Mindy as the heroine we know and love, as she wants her life to be like a romance novel but is never satisfied with the happily ever after.
The second musical interlude was upbeat pop and a montage of the doctors going into surgery. This reestablishes Mindy as a formidable doctor: while her personal life is reflective of the middle chapter struggle of a romance novel, she is excellent at her job.
Finally, there was the classic running through the streets to profess love trope, this time with music of increasing intensity. Here Mindy reveals she cut her hair off and is ready to change her life and move to Haiti. This scene had the potential to be cliché, but due to the comedy weaved throughout – her unsuccessful first attempts to reach her love and the clothes hangers chucked out the window at Mindy – it felt new. That is what is special about the writing here, the bones of the premise, theme, and scenes are all overdone, but the writing is so original and surprising that it allows everything to flow together perfectly.
“Mindy Kaling.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindy_Kaling.
“Jeremy Bronson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Bronson.