THE MINDY PROJECT
Mindy Kaling's ready to stop sweating the mornings after.
"It's going to be nice to wake up on Wednesday mornings and not think about the ratings," Kaling said in an interview last month in Beverly Hills, Calif.
As the creator and star of "The Mindy Project," which debuts its Season 4 tomorrow on Hulu, Kaling was intimately familiar with the show's Nielsen numbers at Fox, which canceled it in May.
Now she no longer has to be envious of Upper Darby's Tina Fey, whose "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" was freed from the overnight Nielsens in its move from NBC to Netflix.
Broomall's Marta Kauffman, who co-created the very Nielsen-friendly "Friends," also revels in not knowing exactly how many people watch her Netflix show, "Grace and Frankie," in which Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play the ex-wives of law partners (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) who decide to marry.
What she knows: "It's gotten a much bigger audience than we expected. It's gotten a younger audience, in addition to the older audience. It's got a big LGBT audience. . . . Every once in a while we go in to see what's trending on Netflix and for a period there, we were [No.] 1. And that was really exciting."
"Being a showrunner and being a show creator is not just about writing and acting," Kaling said.
"I know that it's about the business. And I have been very focused on that . . . It'll be good to take that energy that I had [spent] worrying about ratings and put it into a different worry."
With a 26-episode season that rolls out, old-school, at one per week, she's had plenty to think about, including incorporating a baby into her rom-com, in which she plays ob-gyn Mindy Lahiri, who, we learned last season, is not so good with the birth control.
"I never want her life to be too perfect, so it seemed like having her have an accidental pregnancy after only dating a guy [fellow ob-gyn Danny Castellano, played by Chris Messina] seriously for six months was like a fun challenge for her," Kaling said. "Otherwise, she would just be insufferable."
Offscreen, things changed quickly, too. Between "the time that Fox canceled the show and we were picked up on Hulu, I think it was like eight or 10 days," she said.
Kaling said there might have been "small changes" in the show's budget, but "you will not see it on screen. I've always taken pride in the show looking very cinematic, and that'll continue."
"The Mindy Project" isn't the first ratings-challenged show to move to a streaming service - NBC-axed "Community" went to Yahoo, and a new season of A&E-canceled "Longmire" began last week on Netflix - but streaming projects continue to attract stars, and not just to Emmy-nomination magnets Netflix and Amazon:
* Bryan Cranston is an executive producer of an upcoming Amazon series, "Sneaky Pete," in whose pilot he briefly appears, and he will voice a character called Titanium Rex in a new animated series, "SuperMansion," which premieres on Crackle on Oct. 8.
* Cranston's "Breaking Bad" co-star Aaron Paul will star, along with Hugh Dancy ("Hannibal") and Michelle Monaghan ("True Detective"), in Hulu's "The Way," a family drama set in a religious cult, from producer Jason Katims ("Parenthood").
* Dennis Quaid, Kate Bosworth and Cary Elwes star in "The Art of More," a drama set in the auction world, beginning Nov. 19, on Sony-backed Crackle.
* Amazon signed the often controversial former hosts of the BBC's international hit "Top Gear" for a new car show after one, Jeremy Clarkson, lost his job for punching a producer, and also plans a series with the not-uncontroversial Woody Allen that's to begin filming early next year.
Clarkson, in announcing the deal, reportedly couldn't resist a poke at his former employer, saying, "I feel like I've climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship."
It's an analogy that cuts two ways. Spaceships may be cooler than biplanes, but they're also more complicated.
As someone who often has to explain to a reader how, exactly, to find a streaming show I'd written about, I can say there's room for confusion, whether you're talking about the subscription service that comes with free two-day shipping (Amazon) or the free, ad-supported one where Jerry Seinfeld drives around with comedians, getting coffee (Crackle).
We'd better get used to it, according to Quaid, who said that "there's a revolution going on in TV right now that the networks, I think, are scrambling to keep up with."
Quaid's been around long enough to remember when people were wary of cable.
"There was this feeling [among actors], 'What are you doing? You're going to get lost over there, because people don't even have cable,' " he said. "We used to have the Z Channel here in LA, back in the late '70s, where you got a box and all these buttons. It had like 20 buttons on it. Eighteen of them didn't work, but two of them would give you the Z Channel and you could just watch movies."
"In the next 10 years, we're going to see the battle of the boxes," like Roku or Apple TV, that bring streaming shows to TVs, predicted Zachary Levi.
Levi starred in one NBC show - "Chuck" - and returns to the network Sept. 24 in "Heroes Reborn," but the move beyond the broadcast and cable model is nevertheless something he said he's expected for years.
"There's not just the battle of content. There's going to be the battle of the hardware and the software" to play it, he said. At some point, it will "simply be a matter of, what box do you want?"