A risqué return is just what the doctor ordered for The Mindy Project, a lovable but under-watched comedy coming back Tuesday (Fox, 9 p.m. ET/PT) after a midseason hiatus.
"It's some of the raciest stuff I've ever written, and it's also some of the funniest," creator and star Mindy Kaling says of the sophomore series' remaining eight episodes. "It's a really great way to bring the show back for spring. I'm so excited."
Recently renewed for a third season, Mindy follows obstetrician/gynecologist Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) as she juggles her professional career with an unfortunate love life. Tuesday's one-hour return features guest star Bill Hader as an ex with whom Mindy once made a sex tape.
But more importantly for the series' faithful fans, it shows the immediate aftermath of Mindy and co-worker Danny Castellano's (Chris Messina) passionate, in-flight smooch at the end of the most recent episode.
Although many viewers have long been pining for the will-they-or-won't-they pair to get together, Kaling concedes that the writers' room was split about whether they should link up. As avid fans of 30 Rock and its workplace dynamic between Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, "we could see that, professionally, working quite well for our characters," Kaling says. "Over the course of time, though, with the gestures Danny was doing and the chemistry that Chris and I have, it seemed not like a matter of if they would kiss, but when."
Kaling certainly has experience crafting complex relationship dynamics from her eight years as a writer on NBC's The Office, home to Jim and Pam. (Kaling also co-starred as ditzy Kelly Kapoor.) Among the variety of roles she has on her own series, including executive producer, Kaling says it's difficult to choose which she enjoys most.
"It's funny, because I live and breathe this show," she says. "I go into the writers' room and the set so many different times within the same day, so it all blends into one job, like the writing, creating, producing and executing of this character's life. That's what my job is. It's almost like not even writing or acting anymore."
"She takes very big swings," says Ike Barinholtz, a Mindy writer who also plays goofy but well-meaning nurse Morgan Tookers. "She's not afraid. Her philosophy is, 'I'd rather take a big swing and have it miss than play it safe.'"
And, like her character on the show, Kaling is comically opinionated. "You could say, 'I really don't like licorice,' and she'd be like, 'You're crazy, and you need to be locked up, and your child needs to be taken away from you.'"
Despite the show's low ratings (averaging 3.6 million viewers this season), Barinholtz says Fox still gives the writers free reign with content, reeling them in only when it could put the network in a legal bind.
"What they bump on is if you mention a brand name: If your character is like, 'Oh, what is this pizza, is it DiGiorno?' And they'll be like, 'Oh, no no no, you can't say that,'" he says. "But then they'll have no problem with her saying, like, 'Oh, my God, I had sex so much, I got a UTI (urinary tract infection).' And we're like, 'What? Wow, they'll allow that? OK.'"
It's that type of no-holds-barred humor that's come to define Mindy, at a time when comedic women such as Lena Dunham (Girls) and Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer) are constantly testing the limits of what's appropriate for TV with their suggestive content. Continually inspired by the likes of Tina Fey (who's producing a new NBC sitcom) and Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of Broad City, Kaling says she's pleased with how Mindy has evolved since its first season and is excited by "what we're going to be able to do" in the third.
"People's assumption of the show" is that it has a very specific sense of humor aimed at female viewers, Kaling says. But she believes it has broader appeal. "What I've been so delighted in is that it's become a very funny workplace show, with characters that have very funny and complicated love lives, too."
And as for Mindy? She'll continue to be a woman of contradictions grounded by a "true, deep love" for her job and patients. "At times, she wants to be this great feminist role model for all girls to look up to, and other times, she's complaining about having to recycle because she says it makes America look poor," Kaling says.
"She has a lot of really weird, conflicting interests, but that's what I love about her."