The Mindy Project Should Be Shelved

I do love Mindy Kaling. I love her energy and her Tweets. I love her presence on The Office.

And I was really looking forward to her new sitcom, “The Mindy Project,” on NBC.

I don’t see The Mindy Project being long for this world. Also, I think the subject would’ve fared better as a romantic comedy on the big screen than as a sitcom whose characters we want to get involved with every week.

Like those stories about Chelsea Handler (whatever that sitcom was called) and the sitcom about Whitney Cummings, this one is also too self-indulgent and self-centered. In fact, in this one, the title character is kind of a spazzy ditz whom you find a hard time rooting for (which again, would work in a romantic comedy on the big screen, not so much in someone you are going to turn in and watch every week).

The premise of the first episode is that Mindy is someone who bases her life on romantic comedies. But, not surprisingly, isn’t very good at love. She sleeps around pretty freely (again, not something mainstream America wants in a sitcom lead).

Various former members of either SNL or The Office traipse in as potential suitors. And surprise, the guy she’s going to fall in love with is right under her nose, just like any good romantic comedy.

But other than Mindy’s love life, and the fact that she has to take on a lot of patients who don’t have insurance, there’s not much of a plot there.

I took this show out of my TiVo queue after watching the first episode. Sorry, Mindy.




Once Upon a Time Is Magical

I spent the past weekend catching up with some of my many TiVo’d shows. (2 Broke Girls, Homeland and this one, Once Upon a Time).

When I was five years old, I took some of my favorite fairy tales and rewrote them. My mom thought it was weird. I knew in that moment, I was meant to be a writer.

I think of that when I watch this reworking of many fairy tales, with a twist. “All of our favorite” fairy tale characters are here: Snow White, Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, the evil Queen, heck, even Jiminy Cricket. (I didn’t think Disney characters counted as “fairy tale characters,” but I digress.

The premise is this: The fairy tale characters have been transported to modern times, and they no longer remember who they are/were. Their “happy endings” have been stolen (I know the feeling!), and they need one particular woman to get them back. A shaky premise perhaps.

Why it succeeds as a TV show is this: Ginnifer Goodwin as the role she was born to play, Snow White; and Lana Parrilla as the Evil Queen. Throw in a dash of the evil Robert Carlyle as Rumplestilskin/Mr. Gold and you have ratings gold.

Well, also why it’s succeeding is because you have people who worked on Lost (producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis) and a writer from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (one of the best shows ever on TV) (and that would be Jane Espenson) working on it. (And why have no females directed any of these episodes? Boggles the mind.

Ginnifer Goodwin is always wonderful to watch, and evil Lana Parrilla has never been better. They really make these fairy tale characters come to life. Robert Carlyle chews off huge hunks of that scenery, but is fun to watch.

The first few episodes (including the wondrous “Snow Falls”) are quite amusing. By the Cinderella storyline (“The Price of Gold”), they were kinda losing me. Cinderella was pretty boring compared to Goodwin and Parrilla. Plus, Snow White’s beloved is named Prince Charming, and there’s quite a bit of wonderful banter back and forth about that. Then Cinderella’s story comes up, and isn’t her Prince also named Charming? They kinda don’t even give the guy a name, other than “Thomas.” Um, ok.

So, they are using the bits of fairy tales we know and kind of fabricating whatever they need to flesh out their own stories. With the whole Snow White/Evil Queen thing, it’s working quite well. Cinderella kinda failed.

I mean, as fairy tales go, Cinderella is at least as big a deal as Snow White (most little girls would say moreso), and we don’t even get to see her pumpkin carriage. We go from her sweeping to her having a nice dress on, and then POOF! She’s married. And then with child.

So, if they are going to rush through the big fairy tales like this (although I didn’t mind, cause the actress was dreadful), what’s left for further seasons? In fact, Snow White’s child (Jennifer Morrison, not quite up to the acting talents of Parrilla or Goodwin) is back in town, and she’s on the mystery. So once she solves it, which could be by the end of the season, then what?

Quite unclear. Doesn’t really seem anywhere for them to go after that.

But in the best episode so far, “Snow Falls,” we discover how Snow White and Prince Charming met (and wouldn’t you know it? He’s married/engaged to someone else. (Depending on which of the time frames you are in.) Although in both of them, it’s quite clear that he’s really in love with Snow White.

Did you know Prince Charming’s real name? It’s James. The banter between them is charming, not inspid.

I really liked the show, I just hope that they get back to the Snow White/evil Queen dynamic as often as possible. That is what is truly magical here.

Emmys 2011: Some thoughts

Kyle Chandler. That’s all I keep thinking about when I remember last night’s Emmys. The good guys finally won. Our full hearts and clear eyes finally found some Emmy voters who agreed with not only Kyle Chandler as Best Actor in a Drama, but also the series finale, “Always” as Best Writing in a Drama.

That image, of Kyle Chandler (truly not expecting to win), and the favorite, Jon Hamm truly looking stunned he didn’t, keeps staying with me.

That, and the Best Actress in a Comedy beauty contest pageant lineup (dreamed up by Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton) that ended up with long-overdue winner (for Gilmore Girls, not just Mike & Molly) Melissa McCarthy ending up with a tiara on her head, and roses in her hands, in addition to an Emmy.

Melissa McCarthy with a tiara. Kyle Chandler, nearly speechless. The good guys winning. That’s what this Emmys brought.

Many of my predictions (Peter Dinklage for Game of Thrones Best Supporting Actor, Drama; Julianna Margulies for Best Actress, Drama; Ty Burrell for Best Supporting Actor, Comedy) seemed easy to me, and came true (I had a 16-9 record). But it was the ones I thought were too good to actually happen that did.

Kyle Chandler, Melissa McCarthy. I had actually predicted “Always” to win Writing, but I thought it too sweet, too perfect to happen. Like Martin Scorcese, winning for Direction in Drama for Boardwalk Empire. It seemed like it must happen, I predicted it, but it seemed so far outside what everyone else was predicting.

I was wrong about Julie Bowen, though I was right about most of the rest of the Modern Family cavalcade. Both Jane Lynch and Julie Bowen triumphed thru being submitted on their competitors’ tapes this year. I’m really glad it was Bowen who pulled it out.

And when Peter Dinklage got up there (the common wisdom varied, usually centering on either John Slattery or Josh Charles), taking a statue for the Lannisters, all felt right with the world. So, too, when Margo Martindale (whom I also had predicted) got to the stage. It was like there was a collective “Awwww” heard all through Hollywood. Here was a working actress who had been one of those “jobbers” who’s constantly working in series after series, being recognized for what a great actress she actually is.

That was the tenor and the fabric of this year’s Emmys. No glossy winners who didn’t deserve it. Jeff Probst had won again at the Creative Arts Emmys last week (so very deserving). The Daily Show, deservedly, collected its stash of trophies. (So very deserving.) Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, who made Mildred Pierce come alive, picked up theirs.

Stately Downtown Abbey won its share, including for Maggie Smith.

In fact, I can’t think of one winner where I thought, Oh, that’s so wrong, that person/show didn’t deserve it. And, for me, the ones I missed I credit to the fact that I hadn’t yet watched their tapes (Jim Parsons for Best Actor, Comedy; although everyone else was predicting Steve Carrell, anyway).

Let me speak to that for a moment. People who predict Emmys (for a living, even) often choose based on who is “due” or who seems to be hot at the moment. I believe firmly that the driving factor in choice is the tape in front of that Emmy voter, compared against the next tape. Perhaps, if, for example, Martha Plimpton and Melissa McCarthy both had brilliant and funny tapes, and a voter can’t decide, they will go to “Oh yeah, she’s been working in the industry for so long, she deserves it,” or “I loved her in Bridesmaids, so I’m going to pick her.” Perhaps it works like that. With the tape being 85% of the decision, and all things being equal, other factors being added in after that point.

Others, including big Emmy gurus, predict people like Steve Carrell because of the sentimentality, the picture they’d like to paint, that “well, it’s his last year on The Office,” of course people are finally going to give it to him.” I don’t think that factors in at all. (Or within 10-15%, at most.) I erred in my prognostications this year because I bought into the hype, thinking that Betty White, back together with Mary Tyler Moore in her tape, would be Emmy catnip.

Really, what counted was that in both Jane Lynch’s case and Julie Bowen’s case, they were on TWO tapes that Emmy voters watched. And since Lynch won last year, it was a simple choice.

I use these factors to make my Emmy prognostication better next time around.

But until then, go seek out Friday Night Lights, if you haven’t already. Cause you know: Clear eyes, Full hearts can’t lose. Congrats to all.

2011 Emmy Predictions

NOTE: Items marked in bold are the ones I got wrong…

Just a quick list. Will have more detailed explanation in my podcast, MBH116, which should be out tomorrow.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Amazing Race

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce

Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Edgar Ramirez, Carlos

Mildred Pierce

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Betty White, Hot in Cleveland

Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope

Louis C.K., Louie

Louie, “Poker/Divorce”

Modern Family, “Halloween”

Modern Family

Margo Martindale, Justified

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Hugh Laurie, House (Happy to get this one wrong! Kyle Chandler! Swoon!)



The Good Wife Really? Mad Men only wins HAIRSTYLING and DRAMA SERIES? Really?

Congratulations to all the nominees, and all those who didn’t get nominated, but nonetheless turned in great work this year.