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‘The Mindy Project’ Finale Proves Mindy Kaling Is Ready for Her ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ Gig

Six seasons and two networks later, Kaling earned the rom-com chops to tackle Richard Curtis’ iconic story.

Mindy Kaling, "The Mindy Project"

Mindy Kaling, “The Mindy Project”

NBC Universal Television/Hulu

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Mindy Project” series finale, “It Had to Be You.”]

“The Mindy Project” came to an end on Tuesday with its series finale, and every major character finds love or fulfillment in some form. Everything comes full circle with Dr. Mindy Lahiri (creator and star Mindy Kaling) fleeing from a wedding on a bicycle while wearing a sequined dress. But what a difference six seasons and countless boyfriends make. In the pilot, Mindy’s bike escape is sparked by going on a drunken rant at her ex’s wedding. In the finale, she’s peddling away from her good friend’s wedding into the arms of the man she loves.

Over the course of five years and two networks, Kaling refined her romantic comedy style, which ranged from irreverent and goofy to idealistic and contemplative. It hasn’t always been the most consistent, though, and season-to-season has ranged wildly in tone and execution. This was partially due to the network switch, going from the stricter broadcast expectations at Fox to the more free-range pastures at Hulu, where the show’s rom-com muscles could stretch and grow.

Yet with that much freedom, the show became unevenly ambitious by trying rom-com tropes on as frequently and breezily as costume changes in a shopping montage — and with about as much emotional depth. Sometimes it paid off with wildly innovative and entertaining stories, but this often left the show disorienting, as characters reversed major decisions made only a couple episodes prior. That said, most characters were reliable in their various traits: Mindy’s outsized ego and optimism, Morgan’s utter cluelessness, and Danny’s curmudgeonly nature and love of all things Ma.

Xosha Roquemore and Ike Barinholtz, "The Mindy Project"

Xosha Roquemore and Ike Barinholtz, “The Mindy Project”

NBC Universal Television/Hulu

Despite — or sometimes because of — these inconsistencies, “The Mindy Project” gave Kaling the rom-com chops to move on to her new Hulu venture that will play to her storytelling strengths. It was announced earlier this month that she is developing a “Four Weddings and a Funeral” anthology series with “Mindy Project” showrunner Matt Warburton. They’ll executive produce along with the film’s screenwriter Richard Curtis.

The original 1994 Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell film followed a group of friends to the five various events listed in the title. Over time, each person’s circumstances changes, and they eventually find love. According to Deadline, Kaling’s series would also focus on a group of friends, and each season would tell a different story arc.

Here’s a look a how “The Mindy Project” prepared Kaling to tackle “Four Weddings and a Funeral”:

1. She Has the Rom-Com Tropes Down

In the finale alone, we see a choreographed group dance, a botched wedding toast, a madcap chase after Mindy’s true love, and the last-minute misunderstanding that causes him to have to turn around and chase her. These tropes fit naturally with Kaling’s lighthearted, but self-aware tone, with jokes crafted to highlight how ridiculous they are.

Kaling’s love of rom-coms are all over “Mindy Project,” but she always puts her particular, unexpected stamp on them. She’s tackled the body-switching theme with her “Mindy Lahiri Is a White Man” episode that let her comment on race and gender politics, while her ode to “Groundhog Day” allowed Mindy to understand how to build a relationship. She’s also raced to the top of the Empire State Building a la “Sleepless in Seattle”/“An Affair to Remember,” which obviously would be a horrible physical ordeal.

Xosha Roquemore and Ryan Hansen, "The Mindy Project"

Xosha Roquemore and Ryan Hansen, “The Mindy Project”

Hulu

2. Her Medium-Form Storytelling Fits the Anthology Format

Much like Ryan Murphy, Mindy Kaling appears to tell stories best over shorter, more powerful arcs, such as the one with Pastor Casey (Anders Holm). Between film and the traditional TV series, anthology series offer that happy medium in which a full story can be crafted to hit all the dramatic beats, but then it won’t necessarily have to carry over to the next season.

Hitting reset like this is what gave “The Mindy Project” viewers whiplash, but with the anthology format, it’ll be expected as the chapter closes on one group and opens on another. This will give it the revived energy that’s required of romantic comedies without throwing additional obstacles in the way of a couple who obviously should be together.

3. She Knows How to Build Characters With Ongoing Stories

Although she contributed to “The Office,” Kaling built “The Mindy Project” from scratch and therefore had to populate it with brand-new personalities. For the most part, the original characters seen in the pilot lasted throughout all six seasons, with a few exceptions and additions. Beyond just creating this distinct personalities, the show also brought on a slew of guest stars, some who also had significant arcs as Mindy’s boyfriends.

Anders Holm and Jenn An, "The Mindy Project"

Anders Holm and Jenn An, “The Mindy Project”

NBC Universal Television/Hulu

“One of the nice things about a character who’s kind of looking for love is that I’ve been able to write for dozens of men,” Kaling told IndieWire during a set visit for Season 5. “So many different funny, damaged, single men. That’s been a really good tool to prep for writing characters, and it’s making me really excited to write something for a movie eventually. That would be nice.”

Of course, Mindy herself is a heroine who is perhaps the most fully realized. Love her or hate her, she did things her own way, at her own pace, which sometimes seemed oddly glacial for one so accomplished. That said, she did eventually start to learn from her mistakes and change. Being a single mom was part of it, but also realizing that the happy ending she had envisioned would have to shift.

4. She Can Build a Wacky Ensemble

"The Mindy Project"

“The Mindy Project”

NBC Universal Television/Hulu

“Four Weddings and a Funeral” brought together an unforgettable and distinct cast of characters, and “Mindy Project” ranked among IndieWire’s best comedy ensembles from the last 25 years. It’s not just that each character is a quirky joy filed with glorious one-liners, but that they each can play off each other endless permutations and combinations.

Probably the oddest example is how the ensemble had to adjust when the character Jeremy (Ed Weeks) made a 180 in his personality. Jeremy started as a suave, British playboy, a cliched and kind of boring character that Fox insisted he embody. Once the show was ushered into the era of Hulu, however, the true vision for Jeremy was unleashed. He was nerdy in a gloriously uptight way. His passions were so dweeby and niche that they might have shamed a lesser man. As a result, stories and interactions had to adjust. His love interests also shifted, but in the end, they all still fit together (and even performed a choreographed number at Morgan’s wedding).

5. Romantic Couple Chemistry

Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina, "The Mindy Project"

Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina, “The Mindy Project”

NBC Universal Television/Hulu

No matter how convoluted the premise or absurd the characters, the couple who falls in love must absolutely have chemistry. The lack of fire has extinguished many a rom-com. Fortunately with “Mindy Project,” the opposites-attract tension between Mindy and Danny (Chris Messina) had been present from the start.

While the writers might insist that Danny and Mindy ending up together was not planned from the start, fans would not have had it any other way. Sure, it was amusing to see Mindy go out on dates, but the only conceivable way to not have them together was to physically remove Danny from the picture for big chunks of the show. Because once he returned, there was no denying that anyone else Mindy spent time with was just a placeholder until both parties were ready. And that arc is actually very similar to how it plays out in the central romance in “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Let’s get this series started already!

All six seasons of “The Mindy Project” are available to stream on Hulu.

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