Friday, 20 September 2013

The Mindy Project: Harry & Sally/Harry & Mindy

I have a huge weakness for American 30-something hangout sitcoms, and I really like The Mindy Project. It has a cute central couple, supporting characters who make me laugh and a British character who's clearly a deliberate expy of Hugh Grant from Bridget Jones's Diary, but somehow isn't annoying and feels like he might really be British. (The best British character on US TV, by the way, is Shivrang from New Girl. He drinks shandy, and when riding a white horse in colourful traditional dress as part of his traditional Indian wedding, says, 'This is embarrassing...'). The show is just starting its second season in the US, and meanwhile I'm catching up on old episodes from its first season.

Anyway, much of The Mindy Project is built around riffs on romantic comedies, and these two episodes are, of course, a sort of homage to When Harry Met Sally (which, of course, requires our protagonists not to realise that the two people they're trying to date aren't Harry and Sally, they are). The reason I'm blogging them is that the guy Mindy is trying to date in these episodes is a Latin professor.

The best thing about Jamie the Latin professor is that his job has nothing to do with his role in the story. Normally, the only reason anyone on TV has a job in Classics, ancient history, Latin etc. is that there's some kind of plot-specific reason their job is needed - to translate alien languages derived from Latin, or to translate ancient rocks with demons inside. Sometimes it's a more character-based reason, perhaps to show how fuddy-duddy the character is, or to allow them to show off in front of someone else, but there's always a reason.

So the really refreshing thing about Jamie is that his job is just his job, and his character is not defined by the description 'Latin professor.' He's no more old-fashioned or fuddy-duddy than anyone else - yes, he expresses a liking for high culture, but that's just realistic for someone studying a dead language. He's not especially snobby, he's not a sex-less bookworm who never leaves the library, he's no more geeky than any other character on The Mindy Project - he's a normal human being who happens to work teaching Latin, just as another love interest in these episodes (in a strange echo of Scrubs) happens to work as an oceanographer.

There are references to Jamie's job, of course. There are some jokes about 'dead' languages. In an attempt to get him to give her a second chance, Mindy turns up at his college dressed as female Indiana Jones, which I assume was the inspiration for this particular career to be given to this
character. Best of all, he sings a little song with guitar accompaniment to help his students learn their verbs (though why he's teaching the first verb you learn in February, I'm not sure. Maybe it's a catch-up class). This is all fine and quite funny - once you give a sitcom character a particular job, you want to get some jokes out of it. But the point is, this is just part of the (fairly minor) character of Jamie - he's not defined by it as a person. And that's very refreshing.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard about it, but haven't seen an episode. I'll have to look about online for who runs it here.


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