TV review: Promising start for 'The Mindy Project'

Fox debuts one of the most buzzed-about new shows of the fall season Tuesday, and "The Mindy Project" (8:30 p.m. Sept. 25, Fox; 3 stars) mostly lives up to the hype.

Creator-star Mindy Kaling plays Mindy Lahiri, a smart and talented ob/gyn who is a total mess when it comes to men and dating. TV Mindy, like Kaling herself, grew up obsessed with romantic comedies. She compares nearly every interaction with men--at least those men she's into--to one or more of those movies. Needless to say, she's in her 30s and single.

As the series begins, she's drunk at her ex's wedding, where she delivers a wince-inducing toast before stealing a bottle and a bike. After a crazy trip that lands her in a pool and jail, she launches a self-improvement project. Among other things, she'll respect herself enough to stop hooking up with Jeremy (Ed Weeks), a sexy British doc at her practice. (Well, maybe she doesn't need to fix everything at once.)

Fictional Mindy straddles the fine line between neurotic and nutty in the pilot, and the tone sometimes has a "look how clever we are" feel. But for the most part, Kaling has created a solid, likeable and flawed character--in other words, a real person. I'm not too worried that she and her writers will let the show fall into the rom com trap of becoming corny. Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), who, like Mindy, has no problem delivering a hard truth here and there, brings plenty of reality to Mindy's fanciful world.

"You know what would look really great?" he says during an argument about her "first-date outfit." "If you lost 15 pounds."

Ouch. It sounds like the start of a beautiful rom com relationship, but hopefully Mindy's happy ending won't happen too fast.

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