TV Reviews: 'Mindy Project' shows promise; 'Brickleberry' pushes punch line
Odd-couple siblings Kate, portrayed by Dakota Johnson, left, and Ben, portrayed by Nat Faxon, center, try to help each other through life in "Ben and Kate." The new comedy also stars Maggie Elizabeth Jones, second from left, Lucy Punch and Echo Kellum.
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NBC has already premiered its Tuesday night shows, and now Fox is up with the return of "New Girl" (8 and 9 tonight) and the debut of "Ben and Kate" and "The Mindy Project." Plus, Comedy Central introduces the animated comedy "Brickleberry."
There's something so likable about Mindy Kaling that even though the pilot for her new series "The Mindy Project" (9:30 tonight, WPGH) underwhelms, there's also reason for optimism.
Ms. Kaling, best known as a writer/actor on "The Office" (she played perpetual teenager Kelly Kapoor), wrote "The Mindy Project," in which she stars as Dr. Mindy Lahiri, who has her professional life mostly together. But her personal life is a mess.
Viewers meet her after a night of drunken bicycling following her efforts to disrupt an ex-boyfriend's wedding. In her toast, Mindy refers to her ex's new wife as "the Serbian bagel girl" (she used to sell bagels at a hospital cafe) and wonders aloud, "By the way, are we 100 percent sure she's not a war criminal?"
Flashbacks depict Mindy as a child who grew up on romantic comedy movies, which have set her up with unrealistic expectations about adult relationships. But she continues to give it her all, including during a date with a new suitor (Ed Helms, "The Office"). It doesn't go according to plan.
"Maybe I won't get married," Mindy says afterward. "Maybe I'll do one of those 'Eat, Pray, Love' things. Ugh, no, I don't want to pray. Forget it, I'll die alone."
She's needy and selfish, prone to dramatic flights of fancy (and rage) but also charming in her wisecracks, inappropriate requests and amusing observations ("There are different episodes of this?" she asks with disdain when a co-worker introduces her to "Deadliest Catch").
Tonight's pilot is not as consistently funny as one might hope, and Mindy's flightiness could turn off some viewers, but she and the show are amusing enough to warrant watching.
The pilot introduces a potentially strong supporting cast of characters who are barely developed so far, including a mousy secretary (Zoe Jarman, "Huge"), a best friend (Anna Camp, "The Good Wife," "True Blood"), a slightly out-of-it older doctor (Stephen Tobolowsky, "Glee") and two young male doctors (Chris Messina and Ed Weeks), who may or may not be potential romantic partners for Mindy.
"New Girl," which "Mindy Project" is paired with, didn't arrive fully baked either but eventually developed into a must-see treat. Evidence suggests "The Mindy Project" has the potential to follow a similar path.
Viewers who suffer fools gladly may enjoy "Ben and Kate." Those who don't will merely suffer through this new Fox sitcom (8:30 tonight, WPGH) about siblings.
Ben Fox (Nat Faxon, "Bad Teacher") is the irresponsible, annoying older brother who never grew up and frequently shows up on the doorstep of his sister, Kate (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), a single mom to daughter Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones).
In the premiere episode, Kate is trying to get back into the dating scene and has been out several times with George (guest star Jon Foster), but they haven't slept together yet. Kate's co-worker BJ (Lucy Punch) -- yes, there's an oral sex joke about her name in the premiere -- suggests Kate repeatedly draw attention to her mouth if she wants to get George in bed.
Much of the humor in the show, created by Dana Fox and based on her relationship with her Ben-like brother, derives from Ben's exuberant idiocy and the way he treats Maddie like a grown-up. When he goes to crash his ex-girlfriend's wedding (yes, there are two wedding crashing scenes in one night on Fox), Ben assigns Maddie a cover: a distant cousin from Portugal who doesn't speak English.
"Ben and Kate" has its moments of inspired, gonzo idiocy, but mostly it's like spending a half-hour with someone you can't stand.
Not content to let broadcast networks have all the fun, Comedy Central debuts its own comedy tonight at 10:30, "Brickleberry" from executive producer Daniel Tosh, star of the network's popular "Tosh.0."
To say that "Brickleberry" is gleefully offensive is an understatement. It's aggressively offensive. It makes "Family Guy" seem tasteful and classy.
At first, "Brickleberry" is also quite funny -- if you have a stomach for raunchy humor. But after a while, it's less so. "Brickleberry" raises the offensive comedy stakes so high that it leaves a viewer waiting in expectation for the next tasteless joke. Because the show can't sustain such jokes constantly, there's a lot of down time between the outrageous. During these valleys, "Brickleberry" grows dull.
Created by Waco O'Guin and Roger Black (MTV2's "Stankervision"), this animated comedy follows an overconfident park ranger (voice of Dave Herman) at Brickleberry National Park. His colleagues include Denzel (Jerry Minor), an African-American ranger who hates the woods; Connie (Mr. Black), a masculine female ranger; and Malloy (Mr. Tosh), a vulgar, spoiled resident bear.
Sex jokes, ethnic jokes, AIDS jokes, rape jokes, pedophile jokes, gay jokes, handicapped jokes abound; there's something to offend everyone. Most of these jokes can't be repeated in a family newspaper, but here's one that can: Denzel has a fetish for sex with elderly women or, as he says, "I like my women like I like spoiled milk -- white and past the expiration date."
You've been warned.
First Published September 25, 2012 12:00 am