After three seasons, Fox opted to cancel its critical darling The Mindy Project in early May. Less than two weeks later, Hulu stepped in to save the series, commissioning a 26-episode fourth season as well as the greater freedom that comes with being on a streaming service as opposed to a network show.
It’s an increasingly common story, but still a novelty that beloved, if low-rated, shows can survive thanks to the proliferation of platforms on which to watch television. (Firefly fans still probably wonder what would have happened had the show premiered a decade later.) Not just for audiences, but for those actually creating these shows, as seen today during Hulu’s The Mindy Project panel at TCA.
On hand were executive producer Matt Warburton, cast members Chris Messina, Ike Barinholtz, Ed Weeks, Beth Grant, Xosha Roquemore, and of course star and creator Mindy Kaling. Throughout the discussion, talk returned to the greater relative freedom the show now has. “Full penetrative sex!” Barinholtz joked when asked what changes can be expected. He did quickly make it clear the show isn’t going blue now that it’s online. “Our demo is Stephen Colbert’s daughter, young women who are going to run the world someday,” he said, explaining that they worry about driving away core viewers.
But they are pleased that they no longer have to deal with risk-averse network reps who worry about viewer reaction. “The freedom of trying to say a joke and not have to neuter it or soften it,” is refreshing, Barinholtz said. Emphasizing that streaming and online platforms make sense for more adult, niche oriented comedies, he added that the freedom cultivated by places like Hulu provides “a much more fertile ground for comedy.”
But Hulu didn’t just provide more freedom, it also rescued The Mindy Project from extinction. At the end of the panel, Kaling was visibly touched by that. “I feel personally – I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the show. I’m so grateful,” she said. “I’m such an ambitious person and I’m so grateful to Hulu for giving us this opportunity. They came in to save us and I acknowledge that. And 26 episodes is more than I’ve done on any series I’ve worked on. It went from being “we’re never going to do this show again” to “we’re going to have more work, we’ll [employ] these people and a crew. That means so much, it makes me really emotional.”
Season 4 of The Mindy Project premieres on September 15 on Hulu.