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Mindy Kaling has found her niche with teen TV: "Goodbye, Mindy Ephron. Hello, Mindy the Gen Z whisperer"

  • For a long time, Kaling seemed destined to become the next romcom queen -- the next Nora Ephron, says Heather Schwedel. "To fans of the writer-performer’s love-obsessed screenwriting and essays, it seemed obvious that after The Office, she was going to write romantic comedies," says Schwedel. "Those scripts would seamlessly beget generation-defining films, and then it was only a matter of time before she took her spot in the pantheon of rom-com legends alongside Nora and Nancy. That’s not exactly what’s happened so far. Kaling kept busy immediately post-Office, coming out with shows like The Mindy Project and Champions (it lasted for a season on NBC) as well as, a few years later, a miniseries remake of Four Weddings and a Funeral and a feature film, Late Night. None of them was that slam-dunk rom-com that I, or the rest of the considerable world of people like me, had been expecting: Four Weddings, a flop with critics, is best forgotten, and Mindy Project and Late Night were more workplace comedies than rom-coms. Perhaps more importantly, they also weren’t as good as I wanted them to be." But two shows Kaling co-created -- Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls -- have given Kaling some of the best reviews she's had in years. "She appears to be hitting her stride creatively, and it’s exciting to see. But these shows also stand out as something else," says Schwedel. "All this time, we’d been waiting for Kaling to write the next great American rom-com, but evidence is quickly mounting that her greatest talents lie elsewhere: Maybe instead of high priestess of the rom-com, she’s turning out to be a bard of young adulthood...Her recent success also doesn’t represent a complete break from the past (or her imagined future). Much of the specific kind of talent it takes to write good romantic comedy is no doubt also applicable to writing teen stories, which tend to contain a healthy portion of romance. In Never Have I Ever, after all, Kaling gives us Paxton Hall-Yoshida, a Voltron of every great teen crush (who, winkingly, was 29 when the first season came out), and The Sex Lives of College Girls has four main characters, each with her own exciting romantic entanglements to enjoy. But the shows are also more than that, as the best rom-coms are, and always have been. Kaling, along with her co-creators and writing teams, seized the chance to write about all the things she’s always cared about—identity, womanhood, confronting one’s flaws, competitiveness, family, friends, disappointment, revenge (to name a few)—without the pressure of the whole 'Mindy Kaling, rom-com goddess' thing that I, and everyone else, was guilty of thrusting upon her."

    TOPICS: Mindy Kaling, Never Have I Ever, The Sex Lives of College Girls