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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Worth Another Look!

The Mindy Project

FOX, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |


The Mindy Project, as the title suggests, has been a work in progress. It’s taken half a season for creator and star Mindy Kaling to align the show—and her performance as an ob-gyn with a nerdy enthusiasm for both pop culture and dating—with the sensibility displayed on her Twitter feed and in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Girlish, smart, occasionally clueless, lost in a blissful haze over her latest crush, she’s the romantic heroine of her own life. Kaling knows this is ridiculous, of course—and so does Mindy Lahiri, her character—but that just makes the comedy all the sweeter. The show has taken shape thanks to sharpened writing and a tweaked supporting cast, but Kaling’s gradual embodiment of, well, herself is what’s key. There’s no one else on the contemporary sitcom scene quite like her: Amy Poehler and Tina Fey both found husbands on Parks and Recreation and the now-concluded 30 Rock, but neither actress surrenders herself to the moment or to emotion the way Kaling does. I used to think her obsession with Nora Ephron movies like Sleepless in Seattle was a gimmick, but the yearning seems genuine. Her show is the real thing too.

Phil Spector

HBO, March 24, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Writer-director David Mamet has recruited two thundering talents, Helen Mirren and Al Pacino, for a cerebral meditation on celebrity and the law. Mirren plays Linda Kenney Baden, defense attorney for legendary music producer Phil Spector (Pacino) in his first trial for the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson. Can she believe in the innocence of this notorious eccentric? Isolated in his mansion, surrounded by guns, is Spector a monster or simply a tortured artist? (After a mistrial, he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2009.) Pacino, with his special talent for suggesting florid rot, makes a wonderful freak. But this is essentially a dialogue between baffled attorney and baffling client, which makes for an arid 95 minutes. It’s like Robert Blake: A Ken Burns Film.