The Mindy Project, FOX
REMEMBER THAT SEINFELD episode where George complains to Jerry that Elaine can’t befriend Susan because that would mean “the two worlds collide”? There’s Independent George and Relationship George, and never the twain should meet. “A George divided against itself cannot stand,” or so the saying goes. Like Jerry, I hadn’t then figured out the “Worlds Theory” on my own.
But as I watched more television, I started to see all sitcoms — all stories really — in terms of worlds that undergo continual threats of invasion. The basic axiom of narrative is, after all, how a constant (premise, group, space) must recalibrate itself to a sequence of incoming events, persons, or data. It’s what sustains interest. George’s woes become our viewing pleasure.
Under this light, last night’s episodes of New Girl and Mindy Project weren’t especially revelatory: they simply made the “Worlds Theory” literal and explicit, though to different effects. Jess struggles in keeping her relationship with Nick (friend and roommate) separate from her relationship with Sam (so-called “shorty on the side”). As she tells Sam over burgers and fries, “If I hang out with you, it’s just the truth, I’m going to fall in love with you. It’s just how I am. I can’t separate things out.” Mindy, however, has no qualms with worlds colliding. Well aware that all good stories rely on just-believable chance encounters, she encourages them.
The Worlds Theory raises questions of which worlds are more or less left out of the sitcom scene. Compared to the hour-long procedural drama so often set in the workplace, half-hour sitcoms generally work around the home. Even if Seinfeld is bookended with Jerry on stage, doing his job, these comedy acts rarely filter into Jerry’s interactions with the rest of the cast.
The lack of work is, perhaps, where New Girl reveals itself as more formulaic than The Mindy Project. When Jess brings her work home, she literally brings it home; otherwise, the show rotates around Social Jess and Romantic Jess. This is only possible, though, because Deschanel’s character has been, from the pilot, Roommate Jess.
From what we know so far, Mindy lives alone. While this isn’t the only reason for The Mindy Project to ground its...read more