As the fall television season approached, FOX and NBC stopped at nothing to get the word out about comedy hopefuls The Mindy Project (FOX) and The New Normal (NBC). All over the internet, on billboards and in commercials airing on 30-minute loops, The Mindy Project and The New Normal really made the promotional rounds. NBC went as far as to preview their new show during the 2012 London Olympic coverage (annoying). Basically, FOX and NBC had a lot of hope for these two new shows, and incidentally, both air at the same time on the same night—Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Besides the same time-slot, The Mindy Project and The New Normal are worth comparing for different reasons. For starters, both series promised a fresh, appealing edginess in their plots:The Mindy Project follows an Indian American woman as she struggles to balance love and work in a considerably masculine workplace; The New Normal follows the story of a gay couple that hires a surrogate mother to carry their expected child. We see that cultural, racial and sexual conflicts sit at the heart of both of these comedies, creating momentum in the story lines and providing for the funniest moments in both shows. So then, which series does it better?
My vote is The Mindy Project—and maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed with Mindy Kaling. Regardless, The Mindy Project is a winner because it manages to cleverly portray a woman—competent, confident, successful—who nevertheless struggles with typical (girl) problems and insecurities: her body issues, the isolation and discomfort felt in an all-male environment, her deeply imbedded desire to find the “perfect man,” etc. And as much as many of us women like to tell ourselves that such internal conflicts are unimportant, that we shouldn’t care so much about our appearances or romantic lives, we nevertheless do care … a lot.
Despite some exaggerated story lines and characters—it’s a comedy, after all—Kaling still attempts to honestly portray and address these crises that so many women encounter in their day-to-day lives. When Mindy’s colleague makes an insulting comment about her weight, we cringe because it’s so relatable, because most of us have been hurt by nonchalant insults concerning our insecurities. Especially in an age when strong female characters tend to lean toward the no-nonsense, nonconformist type (Katniss), Kaling’s girly goofiness and frivolity is refreshing and honest. She reassures women that it’s okay to be insecure, to love romantic comedies (Kaling’s admitted obsession). It doesn’t make us any less strong—just normal.
On that note, what is simply too normal are the characters on NBC’s The New Normal. Ironically, the show that aims to glorify uniqueness and individuality instead ends up perpetuating outdated, unoriginal stereotypes that we have seen over and over. For example, the show revolves around a gay couple, David and Bryan. David is the masculine partner, the one who drinks beer, watches football, plays basketball with his buds. Bryan, on the other hand, is the flamboyant one who buys expensive designer clothes and suffers from “obsessive chic disorder.” These clichéd characterizations are funny for two seconds, until they become predictable and boring; even worse, these characters are simply too exaggerated to blend into a unified comedic ensemble. Especially when Jane Forrest, the hyper-racist, wildly offensive grandmother hits the scene, all other characters simply fade behind her militant, highly unrealistic bigotry. In a nutshell, The New Normal is stunted from excessive use of clichéd characters, making it unbelievable, boring and in want of imagination.
So, if you’re ever deciding what to watch on a Tuesday night (which you probably aren’t, considering the scarcity of televisions on campus), steer clear of NBC’s The New Normal and instead tune in to Mindy Kaling’s colorful, honest and refreshing new series on FOX.