The Romantic Comedy Goes On – Max

One of the most interesting assignments I have had in graduate school was in my science fiction film course. The assignment was to write what happens after the end of the movie. In most cases, the endings seem happy and hopeful, but when you think about the implications, are they really? That’s what I was thinking about the other day while watching The Mindy Project, which describes itself as a romantic comedy. But The Mindy Project isn’t a movie. It’s a television show. So what happens when the couple gets together?

mindy-project-1

Still of The Mindy Project, “When Mindy Met Danny” (Season 4, Episode 13, 2015)

The series follows Dr. Mindy Lahiri, an OBGYN, on her search for love. She finds it in an unlikely place: Work! With an unlikely man: A co-worker with whom she bickered and fought with for years! Seems like a romantic comedy, right? And it feels like one. You cheer when Danny and Mindy get together. The credits roll and you are satisfied with the journey you took with those characters. But then you snap out of your elation and remember: There’s another episode next week.

The show is fundamentally about Mindy finding love and being happy. Being television, there are only two options. Continue doing that at whatever costs or change what the show is. For The Mindy Project, they did the former. Mindy and Danny couldn’t last, because Mindy was happy and she had a loving fiance with whom she had a beautiful baby boy. The goal of the series was accomplished, but the series couldn’t just end. This is American television! We’re the people who made nine seasons of The Office when the original showed us that the purpose of the series was to get Jim and Pam (though they were Tim and Dawn in that version) together. So what happens after the credits of a romantic comedy? Well, if they wants a sequel they break up. (For an example see: Bridget Jones’s DiaryBridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and Bridget Jones’s Baby)

The creative team has said that the romantic comedy isn’t over yet. And it can’t be. The show is a romantic comedy, but it is one that can’t settle until the series is finishing. Then Mindy can be happy. For now, the tension of the series dictates that there be a tumultuous love life for Dr. Mindy Lahiri. I will say, they planted the seeds for the break up well in advance, so it wasn’t like in New Girl when Jess and Nick broke up basically out of nowhere because the writers were struggling to come up with stories. There were a few episodes that really turned me off from the Mindy-Danny relationship, specifically the way he acted toward her and how he acted like it was the 1950s even when she called him on it. Still, I’m a softy, and if the creative team can show me that Danny has changed and that Mindy wants that, then I’m all game for the finale being a reconciliation. Because, let’s face it, I love the Bridget Jones movies, and that’s all the sequels are. – Max Dosser

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6 Responses to The Romantic Comedy Goes On – Max

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I haven’t seen a single episode of The Mindy Project, so I’m going to take minor issue with one very specific little point here: “We’re the people who made nine seasons of The Office when the original showed us that the purpose of the series was to get Jim and Pam together.” That may have well been the purpose of the British original, but I don’t think it was the purpose of the American remake at all. Sure, there’s a valid argument to be made that the show lost something when Jim and Pam got together and the “will they won’t they” factor disappeared, but what they lost in that suspension they gained with new territory: Jim and Pam planning their wedding, Jim and Pam getting married (which was one of the show’s best episodes), Jim and Pam having a baby. They faced new struggles and the show was able to adapt in regards to its Jim and Pam storyline. The point of the show as it dealt with Jim and Pam wasn’t just to get them together, but to show the growth of their relationship, from flirty friends to working parents. But the series is an ensemble, so it’s not just about Jim and Pam. It’s also about Dwight, his struggle for power and meaning, and his personal maturation into a more caring and sympathetic person. It’s also about Andy, his quest to become good at his job, and his journey to overcome his insecurities. It’s about Michael Scott and his struggle to find love and acceptance. I agree with your premise that for TV, the show runners must either continue doing whatever the show is about or change what the show is about. And I’ve seen both done successfully and poorly. But The (American) Office was about so much more than just Jim and Pam getting together. More than anything, it was about workplace relationships that grow into friendships, the family you choose rather than the family you are assigned, and the sacrifices you make for the people you care about. So though individual storylines may have developed and changed paths, what the show was really about overall remained consistent.

    –Kevin Pabst

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I too have never seen The Mindy Project but after reading your blog post the writing pattern for relationships on television made so much sense. It is not just for romantic comedies either, as I was reading this Scandal was the first television show that came to mind. Olivia has one of the most frustrating and confusing storyline when it comes to her relationships with Fitz and Jake. Most of the time when I watch the show it makes me think that the writers are just setting the show up so that it can last forever. Sometimes I just wish relationships on television shows can be a tad bit more simple and less overtly dramatic. -Courtney Green

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I always find it interesting with how movies versus television deal with the happy couple finally getting together. In movies, the couple is afforded a happily ever after, but in television, it seems like a couple can’t be together for more than a season and if they are, it’s always on-again-off-again. I always find it a bit frustrating that my favorite television couples aren’t allowed to stay together for long because it isn’t dramatic enough.
    -Valerie Medoff

    • mediaphiles says:

      I have never seen The Mindy Project but I agree with you as well as the past two comments regarding relationships on television. Unlike movies, television couples never seem to stay together for a long period of time because television shows are dragged on for many seasons. Therefore producers and writers have to keep changing relationships in order to keep it interesting; but why is a loving couple not interesting? No wonder people, nowadays, have such distorted views of love. –Jenna Romano

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I just started the Mindy Project, so I had some major spoilers, but its okay, I already knew this. I know that a TV show needs stories and drama in order to keep running, but sometimes I wish the writers would let the couple be happy and give them scenarios as a couple. For example, since you mentioned New Girl, the plots for Cece and Schmidt are more about what problems they face as a couple rather than their relationship. I feel like that shows the development of the character as a real person rather than someone who just goes through cycles.
    -Laya Mohan

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