The Mindy Project blog: EP Matt Warburton on the show's Groundhog Day-inspired episode
Every week, the cast and crew of Hulu rom-com The Mindy Project are taking EW readers behind the scenes of each episode. This week, showrunner and EP Matt Warburton goes behind the scenes of season 5’s eighth episode, “Hot Mess Time Machine.”
Hi all. Welcome back to The Mindy Project season 5 recaps, spring edition. This is writer and executive producer Matt Warburton. I wrote this episode so I’ll be your recapper (recaptain? Is that cool? I say yes.) today. This episode, “Hot Mess Time Machine,” was our first foray into the world of fantasy in a while. The last time, “While I Was Sleeping,” was our first episode on Hulu, featured a big movie star, and included a romantic interest named after me (leading to a very confusing conversation with my wife). But people liked it and we were excited to have Mindy go on a magical adventure. This one is not based on Hot Tub Time Machine, but rather is mostly inspired by Groundhog Day. We design titles for maximum audience confusion.
We find Mindy having been dumped by Ben. She’s miserable, loses her phone in a cup of soda, and realizes she’s on her period (“a visit from the Kool-Aid man”). Mindy and the other female writers like to make fun of me because of my incredibly uninformed understanding of women’s health matters, so they had a lot to correct in this period-centric episode. Mindy wears her flowveralls (that’s what’s called a “portmanteau word” or “portmanturd”) and continues to have a horrible day, culminating in a dressing-down from Ben that she wouldn’t want to repeat. But she soon finds out she’ll be repeating it again and again.
Did people like the “Call Me Maybe” ringtone? Our great director and editor Dave Rogers pitched it and I liked it. When we started The Mindy Project, that was the song of the summer and we listened to it all the time. It made me nostalgic. If the show had started this year, the ringtone would be like the Justin Timberlake song from Trolls or something. Anyway, Dave did a great job on this episode, which really had to be paced properly to make the repetitions not stupid or boring. “Not stupid or boring” is a good bar to set for yourself on any creative endeavor.
I really loved working on the montage later in the episode where Mindy learns about nerd culture. I’m into that stuff and we don’t get to talk about it on the show that much. Actual Mindy (Mindy Kaling) knows a surprising amount about Star Trek and Marvel movies and stuff. She says it’s because Chis Evans is hot or whatever, but I think she’s a little bit of a secret nerd. But you didn’t hear it from me! One funny beat we didn’t have time for in the montage was Mindy watching the movie Groundhog Day and talking about how relatable it is.
Anyway, Mindy learns all about Ben, pays Ben’s mom $35,000 for a banana bread recipe, and becomes a better listener. Just then, Thursday occurs and it’s all ruined. In an early version of the script, the Thursday was supposed to be Thanksgiving Day and we had a joke where Mindy has prepared a giant Thanksgiving spread all for herself when Ben shows up. But the episode ended up being our spring premiere and the Thanksgiving food became barbecue (writing!). It was from Barrel and Ashes, this sick barbecue place in the Valley, and the actors really got to eat the food (acting!). Ben gives Mindy another chance and you’ll have six more episodes this season to see where it all goes.
Did this all really happen in the world of the show? Does Mindy still know all that sci-fi stuff? Will Morgan get out of joining the Navy? I look forward to ignoring these and other questions about continuity on social media. Thank you to EW for having me and thank you for reading. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode, we really like this one.
New episodes of The Mindy Project stream Tuesdays on Hulu.
Mindy Kaling’s rom-com follows the hilarious lives of an OBGYN and her medical practice coworkers.