In a move that many saw coming, Fox has canceled The Mindy Project after three seasons. Despite its devoted fans — who are, if comment sections are any indication, pretty devastated right now — the series always faced low ratings and has had the threat of cancellation looming over it for the last three years. However, immediately following the news came even more news: the sitcom might continue on Hulu, a streaming site following the lead of Yahoo (which saved Community) and Netflix (Arrested Development). For those who love the show, this is surely good news, but the problem is that The Mindy Project has already reached its end, and a fourth season just isn’t necessary.
The Mindy Project, which does have its occasional charms, has never been the strongest sitcom out there. It’s wildly uneven, unsure of what it wants to be from episode to episode and, in some cases, unsure of its characters’ core traits from scene to scene. The pacing is off, leading the show to speed through storylines in a too-rapid cycle. In Season 3, throughout just 21 episodes, The Mindy Project ran the gamut of trope-heavy sitcom plots so fast that it never gave any of them a chance to really stick. Mindy and Danny officially became a couple; Mindy has to win over his mother, Annette, which leads to one episode where Mindy catches Annette stealing and another when she sets her up on a date; Mindy reconnects with an ex-boyfriend to help with her taxes; Mindy runs into the man whose virginity she took and wonders if she should be with him instead; Mindy pretends to be Catholic for Danny’s benefit; Mindy leaves New York City to take a fellowship at Stanford, partly because Danny has not proposed to her; Mindy decides to open a fertility clinic in San Francisco — scratch that: Mindy then decides to open a fertility clinic in NYC instead; and, oh yeah, Mindy is pregnant.
This is a whole mess of plots. Some landed better than others, but most were forgettable, within both my mind and the show’s universe. And the sheer volume of them just shows that The Mindy Project was entering a period of desperation in Season 3, trying to throw as much as possible at the wall in order to see what sticks. The show was running out of steam, and had been for a while. It tried to figure out a way to rejuvenate itself — a new relationship, Peter written out, a surprising episode dedicated to anal sex (one of the few highlights of the season), numerous guest appearances (Stephen Colbert, Lee Pace, Julia Stiles, Laverne Cox, even Shonda Rhimes), and that ultimate sitcom last resort: a pregnancy. While The Mindy Project did a great job with finally bringing Mindy and Danny together, effectively hitting all the correct rom-com beats and doing so in a humorous but emotional way, it bumbled the rest of their relationship, immediately separating the two (because they needed yet another obstacle) and then springing a surprise pregnancy that threw a wrench in their plans.
The Season 3 finale revolved around Danny’s reluctance to get married, with him taking yet another few steps backward from fully committing to Mindy (remember how he never wanted anyone to even know about their relationship?) before unleashing a grand gesture at the last minute, this time flying to meet her parents. It was a fine ending to Season 3, but it didn’t exactly demand a Season 4. Where else does the show have to go? Chronicling Mindy’s pregnancy, continuing to showcase Danny’s hesitance, glancing at a revolving cast in a barely-there office setting, and following the ups and downs and of Mindy/Danny raising a child doesn’t exactly seem worth it. Introducing a child into the mix is a surefire way to tone down the madcap dynamics of the show, letting it settle into a dull groove.
The Mindy Project was never sure of what story it wanted to tell, but all of the stories it attempted — the OBGYN misadventures, the less-than-whirlwind romance between Danny and Mindy, the sort-of friendships between mismatched coworkers — could have been, and were, told within three seasons. Not every television show needs to last forever; in fact, many that do begin to quickly show signs of wear and repetition, clinging to the highlights of earlier seasons without providing anything new or making its case for staying on air. For once, The Mindy Project had a fairly satisfying ending with Season 3 — why not let it end there?