Love is in the air. Actually, Love is on the screen. We can’t help but love a good romance on Film/TV. To some, it’s a guilty pleasure. Why do we love watching romance on fim? We love the fantasy. We are viewers of a romance that many of us don’t get a chance to see otherwise. It seems that we get more pleasure observing the couples that seem completely wrong for each other. Maybe it’s more satisfying to see forbidden or impossible love to succeed.
You have Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally (Nora Ephron, 1989). We are looking into the lives of these characters that seem so wrong for each other and yet they can’t live without each other. Leonardo DiCaprio falls in love with Kate Winslet in Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) where two people of different social classes fall in love with each other. In Notting Hill (Roger Michell, 1999), Julia Robert plays a famous actress who falls for a local bookshop owner. These are romances that you wouldn’t think would survive in real life so why not experience it with the movies?
Sometimes in today’s romances, the best ones are the ones where the couples starts off hating each other. In TV, we see the trope of “Will they or won’t they?” In film, the couple gets together. But in TV, we are left with the question of whether the couple should stay together or not.
The following, is an analysis on how a TV show broke the romcom formula, making even much more interesting than your Saturday morning romantic comedy film.
When Mindy Kaling created The Mindy Project (2012-2017), it starts off with small clips of popular romantic comedies such as When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill, and Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe, 1996). It represents the idea that we all want out life to be like a romantic comedy. The protagonist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri, wants her happily ever after and she is persistent but realizes that a happy ending is harder to find.
Season 1 of the Mindy Project show is what we all want with love. We want to meet the perfect stranger in a typical meet cutes: meeting at a bookstore, reuniting with an old flame, meeting a male prostitute like in pretty woman, or meeting in subway. While we see Dr. Mindy Lahiri dating different types of men in New York City, we get to know her co-worker, Danny Castellano. Danny is showcased with an “old man” personality with a God complex who is also divorced. Divorce is a concept that Mindy doesn’t really understand because her dream is to be married with the love of her life. How can anyone get divorced?
In the series, Danny and Mindy hate each other and date other people in the show. They are so wrong for each other. They criticize each other constantly. It wasn’t until Josh and Mindy’s Christmas Party where Danny feels sympathy when Mindy finds out that her boyfriend Josh was cheating on her. They grow to being friends who care for each other. When I saw this relationship form for the first time, I was happy. Sometimes we need people who can be there for us.
Mindy Kaling at a PaleyFest panel mentioned how difficult it is to write chemistry but the actor Chris Messina who plays Danny Castellano really helps in the creation of the relationship between Mindy and Danny.
Interestingly enough, Danny is the one who starts demonstrating feeling towards Mindy, her goes from hugging her in You Got Sext to dancing for her in Christmas Party Sex Trap. It wasn’t until The Dessert where Danny confessed his feelings by kissing her in the airplane, which was the most anticipated moment in the whole series by that point. The final episode of Season 2, Danny and Mindy showed their commitment towards each other and wanted to continue their relationship at the top of the Empire State Building.
In a perfect romantic comedy, the film would end there. They are together. What else do we need? Thankfully, Mindy and Danny’s story didn’t end there. The season 3 premiere was filled with excitement. What is going to happen? It’s like having a sequel to You’ve Got Mail (Nora Ephron, 1998) or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Donald Petrie, 2003). Also, they are complete opposites. We wonder how are they going to show them as a couple.
Season 3-6 is when our perception of a typical happy ending in a romantic comedy changes and it’s not perfect. They fight about everything but the main issue is that Mindy wants to get married but Danny doesn’t make any moves towards engagement. Mindy pursues an interest in teaching residents and does a fellowship in California. She went from being a husband-wanting crazy person to a doctor who wants to further develop her professional career. Mindy later becomes pregnant which forces Danny to reevaluate his future with her.
In Season 4, Mindy and Danny are engaged but everything changes once their son Leo is born. Mindy concentrates on her fertility business but Danny wants her to be a stay-at-home mom which resulted in constant fights and lack of communication among them.
In the episode, “When Danny met Mindy” it looks at a flashback when Mindy and Danny first met. It’s in relation to “When Harry Met Sally” but instead of being happy together like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, Mindy makes the decision of leaving Danny because they want different things. What?! How can they do this?! We’ve loved this character from the very beginning! We were rooting for them when they got together! Now they are broken up?! What? Well, that’s life. In a perfect TV world, couples who seemed perfect together, would stay together. Mindy Kaling has achieved to go against the typical romantic comedy and show heart. Mindy and Danny weren’t getting along so they separated. The separation is also in relation to Chris Messina wanting to take on more movie roles but Mindy Kaling and her team have successfully separated a couple in an organic way.
Dr. Mindy Lahiri went on to continue working, being a single mother, and dating new types of men. In Season 6, she divorces her husband Nurse Ben because she wasn’t happy. The love-hunting Mindy we saw in Season 1, no longer exists. The first time in the series, we see Dr. Lahiri alone and not giving into the romantic happy ending until serious family problems brings her back to Danny.
I believe that Mindy Kaling has changed our perception of the happy ending and going against what it’s supposed to look like and what it can look like. It’s not all flowers and chocolate. There are sometimes tears involved but eventually happiness and contempt.