At approximately 9:57pm on Monday, September 14 The Mindy Project Season 4 premiered on Hulu. This is (by our count) the third major show to switch from broadcast television to streaming television, joining Community and Arrested Development, although the latter is a bit of a different situation.
For me, watching The Mindy Project premiere was no different for me than any other episode of the show. Since I don’t often watch television live I would usually watch each new episode the next morning on Hulu.
Shows like The Mindy Project (cancelled due to lower ratings, but critically acclaimed and with passionate fanbases) seem primed for the more niche, on demand television experience that’s emerging today, particularly when – in Mindy’s case – most fans were already watching episodes on Hulu the day after they aired anyway.
Let’s make this clear: a wholesale switch from broadcast to streaming is not going to happen overnight. Okay, maybe eventually it will (anyone remember people freaking out about the transition to digital broadcasts in 2008?). But for now, it’s happening slowly, one show at a time.
The fear when a show changes networks or landscapes is that the show will change. In both major cases (Community and The Mindy Project) this is not true. Sure, Mindy took advantage of those extra five minutes to create a true half-hour show (or at least a 28 minute one). And yeah, Community had fun with pushing the limits of what a network might deem acceptable. But it’s important to note that Community didn’t drop an f-bomb until the season finale. It wasn’t a different show, and the same is true (so far) of The Mindy Project.
The thing we’ve always loved about Mindy is that she speaks her mind. And maybe now she’ll be able to push that even further. So far, though, it’s pretty mild. And that’s where Mindy’s humor comes from. Her unique way of saying things that are actually not that family friendly. Like when Joseph Gordon-Levitt (making an awesome splash in the online opener) summarizes Mindy’s demand for a huge engagement ring or else he’d be “S-ing my own D for the rest of L.” Granted, this would probably be pushing Fox’s boundaries, but it’s definitely not pushing the internet’s boundaries.
One thing the show will lose, however, is the live tweeting element. Fans will be watching at different times, there will be no universal time in which cast and creators can live tweet, and you lose that sense of community. This can be somewhat rectified by organizing viewing parties, but it won’t come as organically as before.
The Mindy Project has always been a show about the modern woman. Mindy’s serial dating, surprise pregnancy, and now Danny’s hesitation to get married are all common struggles in the life of the modern woman. The arranged marriage story really hit home with this. Mindy has been affected by her generation and culture in such a way that it won’t ever be as simple as arranging a marriage to a great guy.
At the same time, this episode gave us a lot of great stuff, particularly when it comes to Mindy’s family and their perspective of her. I think there’s this fear that they would be old-fashioned, particularly when they announced they were arranging a marriage for her. But like a good sitcom, and like classic Mindy, by the end of the episode we knew differently. Mindy’s parents don’t just put up with Mindy’s modernity, they embrace it. They understand her. It’s Mindy who perhaps doesn’t understand her parents.
Along the same lines of this story, Morgan shined as always. Under normal circumstances, his part in Danny’s story might seem forced, but considering it’s Morgan… and if he weren’t in the episode, then no one else from the main cast would have been in the episode. His presence was refreshing and important. He was able to push Danny in a way he never would have pushed himself. A highlight was when he mocked Danny with that whiny face: “I have qualms!” The question going forward from this episode is whether Danny will follow through with the marriage, and how his choice will affect his and Mindy’s relationship.
As far as the show as a whole, it comes down to this: Mindy’s dated good guys. Mindy is actually currently dating a great guy. And even the guy Morgan chose for Mindy (shout out to Raj!) turned out to not even want to marry Mindy. Dating and marriage are not as simple as they have been in previous generations, and The Mindy Project continues to remind us of that and assure us that we are not alone.
As long as they keep this up and continue to make us laugh (which, if the Season 4 trailer is anything to go by, there’s no reason to worry), I don’t think it will matter whether the show airs on television before it goes to Hulu. It’ll still be the same Mindy we love.