'This show has always been about dating and sex, and one of the challenges was the way that we temper everything for network television,' Kaling tells EW

By Marc Snetiker
September 14, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
Beth Dubber/NBC
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All eyes are on streaming as one of this fall’s most experimental debuts draws near. The fourth season of The Mindy Project premieres on Sept. 15 in its new home on Hulu, who heroically came to the rescue after Fox tragically axed the series last spring.

As the rom-com charges forward into unexplored territory of both network and narrative (Mindy’s having a baaaaby!), here’s what to keep an eye out for in the fourth go-round at Shulman & Associates.

1. New home, new house rules

The writers of Mindy plan to make good use of the not-quite-noticeable but not-quite-negligible freedom afforded to them by their new spot on the streamer. As Kaling explains to EW, “This show has always been about dating and sex, and one of the challenges was the way that we temper everything for network television. I think that’s a very good skill — editing your work and not just doing provocative first draft material makes a show better, especially when the characters are so outrageous. If anything, we can now say turns of phrase we weren’t able to say before, the episodes can be slightly longer, and we can give more characters lines and know that the audience will actually see it.” On the flip side, it’s up to interpretation whether the show will make good on national treasure Ike Barinholtz’s TCA promise of “full penetrative sex to open and close the episode.”

2. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Lahiri!

Get ready to find out where your favorite OB/GYN came from. Mindy’s mother (Sakina Jaffrey) is an aspiring Bollywood actress and her father (Ajay Mehta) is a serious, perhaps almost Danny Castellano-type, and while their personalities are the perfect storm to create something so individual as Mindy, they’re not quite autobiographical. “I’m so different from obviously [the real] me, so the parents had to be different as well, and that was so fun,” Kaling gushes.

The real fun will likely come from the dynamic when Mindy’s folks meet Danny’s mother Annette (Rhea Perlman), who was introduced — and completely embraced by fans — last season. “What’s great is we’ve already established Annette and Mindy is kind of attached to her, so now that we have her actual biological mother there and they haven’t seen each other as much, there’s almost a natural rivalry between the two grandmas,” teases executive producer Matt Warburton.

3. Mindy’s baby does not exist in an isolated vacuum of plot shenanigans

The big buzz heading into season 4 revolves around Mindy’s baby bump, which will — spoiler! — become an actual baby when she gives birth in an early episode. (Surely there were better ways to word that sentence.) But unlike other shows that focus solely on the new bundle of baby fat, Warburton says that the newborn is merely the tipping point for the other crazy challenges happening for Mindy in her personal and professional lives: “We’ve actually found that having a baby kind of just turns the temperature up on every other problem you throw at the character. I think people will be surprised by the extent to which Mindy has more problems than she’s ever had. She’s a mother who isn’t married yet, dating this weird guy, and now her family’s in the mix and she’s juggling two jobs at the same time, so there’s an awful lot going on.”

4. Guests on guests on guests

More guest stars than ever seem to be arriving in Manhattan for the new season. There’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Frieda Pinto in a Sliding Doors-esque storyline, Eliza Coupe and Cristin Milioti popping in, and Fortune Feimster and Garrett Dillahunt as a pair of Southern siblings who have just moved to New York. “Garrett is a big workplace challenge for her,” says Warburton. “She has this fertility practice now, and he’s going to have a very strong attitude about that and get involved in that story.”

5. Mindy and Danny are still … well, Mindy and Danny

With everything else going on — new parents, new actors, new infants, new subscriptions to Hulu Plus — it may be easy to forget that Mindy and Danny still aren’t exactly the world’s most functional couple. The queen bee of fertility and her grumpy love-ball continue to have work to do on themselves even as they figure out their new roles as parents. (Let that sink in for a second.) “When we put Mindy and Danny together, we were worried, is this going to feel like the end of the movie, but because they’re such different people, it’s really just allowed us to keep exploring,” says Warburton. Kaling adds: “When we look back at season 1, at how different the characters were … even just look at Mindy and Danny’s relationship. They used to hate each other and now they love each other, although they still have a lot of problems with each other. It’s been funny to see how that relationship has changed so much, and yet hasn’t changed at all.”

Season 4 of The Mindy Project premieres Sept. 15 on Hulu.

Want more? EW’s Fall TV Preview mega-issue has the scoop on 115 shows! Pick up your copy on newsstands now, or buy it here.

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Mindy Kaling’s rom-com follows the hilarious lives of an OBGYN and her medical practice coworkers.
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