Fall 2012: FOX’s Ben and Kate & The Mindy Project

Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project are two of the most buzzed about shows of the new fall season. Out of the comedy pilots I have seen so far, Ben and Kate was the first to actually make me laugh out loud numerous times; it seemed very in tune with my sense of humor. In other words, I LOVED it. Can’t wait for more. The Mindy Project was more conventional, but Mindy Kaling’s voice is very fresh and I think she speaks to contemporary women in a way that is appealing.

Ben and Kate

The titular Ben and Kate are siblings that grew up close, and stayed that way, even though Ben pops in and out of Kate’s life. Ben rushes into Kate’s life this time because the girl he loves is getting married and he wants to stop the wedding. Meanwhile, Kate is worried her brother’s antics will spoil her first real relationship (with Jon Foster) since the birth of her daughter. Ben realizes things are not right with Kate’s boyfriend and comes to Kate’s rescue. Ben and Kate come equipped with best friends that are equally as hilarious and endearing: Lucy Punch and Echo Kellum. By the end of the pilot, Ben decides to move back home to help Kate with her five year old daughter Maddie (the cutest kid ever). Because my notes on this show read only “Love this! Yay!” and a string of quotes, here are some great Nat Faxon-isms and other quotes from the pilot, sans context:

  • “I high-fived him…I did not like it.”
  • “You’re so naive…you’re only five, but you’re very naive.”
  • “Why are you so young right now?!”
  • Kate: “Aww man, what are you going to do?” Ben: “I’m thinking about, like, starting on the roof and then rappelling down the the side of the building, and then maybe like knocking through an AC duct and then crawling, like elbows, like this, and then like dropping down into an electrical closet like throw a couple smoke bombs in, and then just kidnapping Darcy, taking her out the back, and maybe like renting a Jeep Wrangler or something and just popping down to Mexico — but, I don’t know. It’s all a little bit up in the air.”
  • Ben: “Tommy, what did you think?” Tommy: “I thought it was amazing.”
  • “Come on Maddie, this is really important to me. Quit phoning it in.”
  • “This is too soon! The bow is a surprise!”
  • BJ: “Wait, what’s the fish?” Tommy: “It’s a tilapia. Or sal-mon. I’m not sure exactly which one.” Ben: “Salmon.”

The Mindy Project

“…who I have been is not who I am going to be”

When I say that The Mindy Project is more conventional, I mean it in the sense that the whole show seemed to be laid out in the first 22 minutes: we will get to see Mindy trying to better herself while also (probably) discovering that the caustic frenemy across the office is actually her true love. Clearly Mindy has her priorities a little skewed from the beginning — she looks past the hot Brit doctor and pegs Bill Hader as her rom-com soul mate. I love Bill Hader, but lets be honest, in that situation who would be looking his way? Things follow in the classic rom-com fashion that Mindy has modeled her life after (she gets stuck in the elevator with Hader, they move in together two months later…except in the show’s present time he has now left her for the Serbian merchant who works downstairs). Side note: Thanks to watching the film Blackout on Netflix, I’ve decided getting stuck in an elevator with an attractive man (hello, Aidan Gillen) can actually be the worst event of your life. Anyways, after attending Hader’s wedding, she drunkenly rides her bike into a pool and realizes things need to change. She wants less drama. Cue a date with Ed Helms (awesome) that she has to leave for a patient and a flirty-bonding session with the jackass doctor, Danny Castellano (Chris Messina).

Random thoughts:

  • One critic cited that a potential problem is the amount of pop culture references in the pilot alone and that they instantly date the show. I honestly wouldn’t have thought much of them. I think 30 Rock is great perpetrator of this to the point where I don’t see how many of their jokes will function in a few years. But off the top of my head, The Mindy Project references Downton Abbey (glad Chris Messina gets to be the voice of greater America by being snarky and asking why people keep mentioning it), Michael Fassbender (in particular his penis–honestly, I think this joke’s expiration is way past), Eat Pray Love (a bit I really liked) and Bruce Springsteen/John Mellencamp. It also shows a lot of clips from older romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally. Unless these mentions get egregious, I think they help the image and comedy of the show.
  • This may be the lover of Eastern European history in me, but I thought Mindy’s crack about Bill Hader’s new bride potentially being a Serbian war criminal was off the mark. I grimaced.
  • I get that Chris Messina is a cynical divorced singleton, but I think his character really needs work. They layered on his abrasive personality a little thickly and I found it very unappealing. Who really wants to be friends with someone that calls you ignorant for saying “Springsteen concert” instead of “Springsteen show”? Eh…They tone him down at the end of the episode to establish some romantic sparks, but I found myself remembering how annoying he had behaved for the better part of the episode.
  • Anna Camp plays Mindy’s best friend. For someone who appears in everything, maybe she will finally plant some roots in this show.


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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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