The Mindy Project is one of the only television shows that characterises itself as a romantic comedy. Since I consider myself to be somewhat of a romance connoisseur, I can confirm that it is. In fact, besides Jane the Virgin, it might be the only show on television at the moment that actually resembles a romance novel. (Don’t talk to me about Outlander. That’s a whole other post.) The Mindy Project has:
- a smart, sassy, relatable heroine;
- a crabby, but heartwarming (and sexy) hero;
- popular tropes including medical romance, office romance, enemies-to-friends, friends-to-lovers, and
- internal and external conflicts that are believable, albeit sometimes unrealistic.
All of these made Therese an incredibly happy romance fan. (Warning, spoilers ahead!)
By the time I heard about The Mindy Project, I had four seasons to catch up on. Fortunately, the perfect opportunity came along when I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth removed. And for the first three seasons of The Mindy Project, my belief that the show was as close to a romance novel as a series could be remained in tact.
The show starts with our heroine, Mindy Lahiri, deciding to change her approach to dating after her boyfriend dumps her so he can marry someone else (a perfect romance novel start). Of course, this is easier said than done, and we see Mindy go through the ups and downs of dating while trying to make a serious love connection. But what I really want to talk to you about is the grumpy guy Mindy works with, Danny. Danny and Mindy start off as enemies, but as the story progresses, they become friends and finally, become lovers.
Mindy and Danny
In the first season, while Mindy and Danny are still friends, they help each other through their respective emotional issues. It became clear then that the intention of the show was for the two of them to end up together. (I, for one, was totally on board for this.) In season two, we see things shift between them. And when they finally end up together in season three, I was the happiest viewer. Mindy found out she was pregnant, they got in engaged, and for once, I wasn’t throwing something at my television screen. (You know I’m talking about you, Grey’s Anatomy.)
But of course, they sensed my happiness and decided to cruelly rip it away from me.
In season four, Danny reverts back to the grumpy person he was at the beginning of the series. Except now, he was worse. No, now, he’d become so much more of an asshole that I really didn’t want Mindy to end up with him. But I kept that belief to myself, knowing that every hero deserved a second chance. But they didn’t give him one, nor redeemed him enough that I believed he deserved one. I was heartbroken. The heroine didn’t end up with the hero. With her fiancé. The father of her baby.
This. Was. Not. What. I. Signed. Up. For.
To me, romance means that the hero and heroine end up together. It means that, apart from maybe the black moment, the hero and heroine do not suddenly change and completely abandon one another. And if that happens in the black moment, the hero and heroine overcome it and still have you rooting for them. The emotional growth the hero and heroine experience are long-lasting. Their love spurs it, and then sustains it. People do not go backwards – unless it’s to move forward again – in romance novels. Which is why I love them so much.
Now, I get that The Mindy Project is not a romance novel. That the series is influenced by a number of factors I don’t know of and that it wants to depict real life. But I believe in giving your audience what they want. What they deserve, really, after investing so much of their time into the relationships you’ve told them to root for. You can’t take that away from them without breaking their trust. And then you can’t expect them to believe in the relationship again should you ever want to revisit it in the future.
This might come across as a rant – which it is – but it has a purpose.
Romance novels are more reliable than television shows. Your time and effort will pay off in the end. The heroine and hero will undergo emotional growth that will last and will provide the foundation for a happy future together. The characters might be awful in the beginning, but they won’t be by the end. And there are no surprise endings, only one: a happily ever after.
So thanks, The Mindy Project, for reminding me of why I love romance novels so much more than TV.