The most buzzed-about new sitcom of the 2012-13 season premiered last night, and the media can’t figure out whether or not it was a success. While an early headline from Vulture proclaimed, “Viewers Like Mindy Project Debut Just Fine,” pointing out that it won its time slot among viewers under 35, the raw numbers didn’t look that impressive to us: 4.8 million viewers, with a 2.4 rating. As it turns out, other publications aren’t as enthusiastic. The Hollywood Reporter calls The Mindy Project’s performance “optimistic (if slightly unimpressive),” while Entertainment Weekly says it “disappointed a bit” and The Wrap proclaims its debut “so-so.” Deadline judges the entire Fox Tuesday-night comedy block to be “slow out of the gate.”
So, Mindy Kaling fans, can we rest easy or is it time to get worried? The numbers themselves are inconclusive, but let’s look at another important factor. The Mindy Project pilot has been available to watch online for over a month. We know that Kaling has an army of hardcore supporters (New York magazine dubbed them “The Cult of Mindy Kaling”), and it makes sense that — like us — those people would skip the series premiere because they streamed it weeks ago. It wouldn’t surprise us in the least if next week’s numbers are significantly higher, as those superfans pick up where they left off. Then again, the pilot for Mindy’s lead-in, New Girl, was also posted online before airing last fall, and it still attracted 10 million viewers to its primetime debut. In other words, the show’s fate remains unclear, so we’d all (or at least those of us with Nielsen boxes) better keep watching if we want it to stick around.