“The Mindy Project” Season 4 is over. No, really. It just ended; not last December, when it took a midseason break; not in May, when broadcast sitcoms all wrapped up. The finale, “Homewrecker,” debuted Tuesday, July 5 on Hulu, and… it’s pretty good! We’ll dig into the epic fantasy creator Mindy Kaling has materialized for her character shortly, but that’s not actually why her Fox-turned-Hulu series is an accomplishment like no other in 2016.
In an era when we’re lucky to get 13 episodes of an original series from any network, streaming or otherwise, “The Mindy Project” delivered more content than even the immensely high standards of broadcast television. Twenty-six half-hours of TV is an incredible number to knock out in less than a year (“New Girl,” “Mindy’s” old partner on Fox, made 22), and it’s set the series up to be the ultimate binge for any TV fan.
“The Mindy Project” may not be the best viewing choice, per se. Usually, fans should be able to find something more pertinent, a bit funnier or more challenging. Even now, Hulu is releasing new episodes of “Casual” that are of a slightly higher quality and equal entertainment value to Hulu’s converted comedy. But that’s not what bingeing is about — not anything more than few episodes, anyway — and “Mindy” has conquered one of binge addicts’ most nagging complaints: “Is that it?”
In the constant quest to keep a binge alive, five hours of comedy (or 10 episodes) isn’t nearly enough to last a lazy Saturday, let alone a weekend, and tacking on another 60 or 90 minutes is like a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. Hour-long dramas offer more, more, more, but it’s often hard for them to keep the energy up throughout, and thus the viewers’ interest lags accordingly. While imperfect individually, “The Mindy Project” as a whole is ideal escapist entertainment — new, funny, engaging and easily digestible — with just enough of a progressive push and more than enough excellent actors to make watching all 13 hours of it guilt-free — and one helluva good time.
Over the course of said binge, viewers might notice an intriguing embellishment for the subtly subversive sitcom. Considering Season 4 started with Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) flying to India to ask for Mindy’s hand in marriage, ending with two men — two doctors, no less — fighting over her may not feel like much of a progression. But Kaling has taken Mindy from a woman who was striving for the traditional dreams of sitcom starlets — a rich husband to go with her life of luxury — to a woman who defines her own happiness.
The midseason cliffhanger that led to a divorce between Danny and Mindy set this up, without immediate payoff. The series initially skirted past a lot of the darkness associated with such a devastating breakup (in favor of more “awkward Mindy dating” adventures), but has now engulfed itself in the complexities of splitting up while sharing a kid and the finale took it a step further.
Yet you wouldn’t know it from passively watching “Mindy.” Kaling has constructed quite the fantasyland for her character, as Dr. Lahiri dates with wild abandon (always with Danny ready to take over baby duty), starts a second business on top of her wildly successful first practice (judging by her palatial accommodations) and ends up having two attractive gents (again, both doctors, or as Tamra, Xosha Roquemore, puts it, “Dr. L sure has a type: co-workers who are annoyed at her all the time.”) fighting for her affection by season’s end. One is the father of her child, and the other buys out the apartment upstairs in order to convert it into a nursery; an idea that sprung from the intended surprise construction of a walk-in closet for all of Mindy’s elaborate clothing.
Too long have we suffered through sitcoms with aimless men reaping the benefits of a hot wife or innumerable lovers to cast a strike against a woman-led sitcom tracking a character who’s a total badass, professionally. Sure, she may be living outside her means from time to time, but Kaling has to be aware of the fantastical elements surrounding her character, and embracing them makes the whole show that much better — especially for long stretches.
Is it realistic? No, not at all. Is it fun to imagine? So, so much. Is it thus perfect fodder for a binge? Absolutely. And just like its subject’s good fortune, it’s virtually never-ending.