Yesterday, The Mindy Project made its online debut. After being canceled by FOX at the end of its 3rd season, the show found a new home on Hulu to go along with their exclusive streaming rights to the first 3 seasons. It’s not the first loved-but-low-rated comedy to be rescued from cancellation by an online service. Netflix started the trend when they revived Arrested Development and Yahoo jumped on the bandwagon with Community last year. However, based on the first episode, I would argue that The Mindy Project is the show that has best made the transition.
Transitioning a show between broadcast and streaming not only gives its creators and stars a second chance to tell their story but also comes with some creative perks. Online services tend to give fewer notes on individual scripts meaning that more of the creative control rests in the hands of the showrunners. They are also not tied to traditional episode lengths of 21-22 minutes for a comedy. They can get away with racier or more controversial material because there aren’t concerns about the FCC or, I’d imagine, quite as many viewers complaining about the content.
As the first up at bat, Arrested Development had a lot to prove. It had been years since the last episode had aired and just getting the cast back at all and coordinating filming schedules was a feat in itself. As a result, we ended up with a season that produced mixed reactions. In order to work around external complications, they had to change the basic format of the show so that it could be told by as few actors as possible at any one time. It took me a while to get through the 13 episodes and ultimately, I appreciated what they tried to do with the show more than I actually enjoyed the results. I hear it works better on a second watch, but it’s not a high priority for me to test that claim. It was much more of a reboot as opposed to a pure transition.