One of the great things about being on the other side of the Atlantic from America is that we only get the best of their TV on our networks. Or at least, the better TV. Shows that are cancelled after 6 episodes or half a season don’t even register on our radar. Even better, as only a handful of channels import to any great extent, they are often blocked together in the schedules, so a fan of US crime dramas can have a solid few hours on a network and not have to channel zap.

E4 have developed a niche for picking up the best comedies, and are big business for them. How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory have picked up better ratings than many home-grown shows; the latter in particular can pick up a couple of million easy, not bad for a channel aimed at the 18-30 group, who are normally so busy enjoying the outdoors they barely turn on a TV.

Currently E4 are showing New Girl and The Mindy Project back-to-back, which makes it easy to compare them. On the surface there are a lot of similarities. For a start both are female-driven programmes, both in terms of the lead character but also in the production team. Both revolve around someone in their early 30’s who hasn’t managed to settle down and is generally unlucky in love, which we are led to believe is down to their socially awkward ways. Despite this, both are eternal optimists, even though the leading man opposite is a pessimist (although this is TV land, so the love of a good woman can fix this).

So why do I love Mindy over New Girl by such a huge margin? The answer lies in comparing Mindy to Jess. The fact is, I don’t completely buy Jess’s is predicament. Both are in steady, professional jobs -Mindy a doctor, Jess a teacher- and while I am sure there is a pay gap between the two, I find it hard to believe it is one where Jess has to shack up with 3 guys. Also, Jess is arguably more conventionally pretty than Mindy. Quirks aside, I find it hard to picture her as single. Jess is set up as this outsider that people can identify with, but I don’t.

In contrast, I believe in Mindy. Whilst she is more successful, I find it easier to see how she struggled. For a start, she doesn’t fit the typical image of beauty that we have, although I do think she is has a quality about her that has a beauty of its own. She is more comfortable in putting her faults on show (she is shallow, slightly selfish and is slightly delusional) but counterbalances this with a genuineness that makes them ok.

In short, Jess has chosen to be an outsider, yet is limited to having a few eccentric tics. Mindy has no choice but to be an outsider, and has learnt to revel in it. Her quirks are less put on, and are therefore more real. Both shows are trying to sell the same message of ‘Be Yourself’, but only one is walking the walk.

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