Though NBC still has a thriving series in The Office (at least until Steve Carell leaves the show), the network, perhaps sensing an impending close to the breakout American adaptation of Ricky Gervais’ original BBC program, has decided to outsource the workplace comedy. NBC’s new series Outsourced takes Todd (Ben Rappaport) a recently trained Midwestern call center manager, and tosses him over to Mumbai, India. Why? Because their “right-sizing” their jobs to an outsourced call center for Mid America Novelties, a company who sells all the stupid novelty shit normally found at Wal-Mart (i.e. a singing deer head that sings Sweet Home Alabama). Unfortunately the level of hilarity in the new show is about as lowbrow and torturous as the same novelty items the fictional call center is attempting to sell.
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The series (which is inspired by the 2006 indie romantic comedy of the same name) and its attempts at comedy are about as frustrating as the very call centers of which it aims to make light and mock charmingly. The humor skirts on being offensive as it puts almost every stereotype of Indian culture on display. While I don’t have any problems with racial humor (as a matter of fact, I downright love it), the comedy employed here is of the lowest common denominator. Indian food takes revenge on your digestive system and causes severe trips to the toilet? Oh, that’s wacky! People from India have accents and are badgered over the phone during their job? Oh, that’s fresh!
The only laughs that come from the culture clash between Todd and his eager, but befuddled employees like Sacha Dhawan’s character Manmeet (see it’s funny because his name sounds like a synonym for the penis) or the woman who whispers like the wind (Anisha Nagarajan) seem to only crop up because actor Ben Rappaport is so charismatic. The representation he brings from America for his Indian employees to learn is just as true as it is mocking. However, I can only imagine this exists to balance the potentially racist jokes that come from setting the series at a call center in Indian where cows lurk outside of the windows (do I even need to mention that there’s a conversation about how they’re sacred?). I will admit though, the references to certain sects of American culture such as a quick line from Glengarry Glen Ross did give me a brief audible chuckle.
Even more disappointing is the inclusion of Diedrich Bader, an actor who has gone from a supporting role in one of the greatest workplace comedies (Office Space) to one of the worst right here on NBC. And wouldn’t you know it, his character Charlie (who runs another call center) has eyes for the hot Australian Tonya who runs an airline call center who just happens to introduce herself to Todd. There’s a romance to be spawned, but the two are certainly no Jim and Pam.
Outsourced is a series that tries to make light of an issue plaguing the economy of the United States as corporations looks for cheap labor wherever they can get it. While crafting a comedy series that makes light of these crippling elements of our economic downturn would be warmly welcomed, it would be nice if that series actually turned out to be funny. Not even the talents of director Ken Kwapis, straight from behind-the-scenes at Dunder-Mifflin could salvage this series even though it feels like it was written by Michael Scott.
THE FINAL WORD: NBC has outsourced a call center and simultaneously phoned in this comedy series with no original, smart or unpredictable laughs. Don’t get too caught up in this series, because if my instinct is correct, then Parks & Recreation will be making an emergency return to Thursday night comedy before Thanksgiving. If you’re looking for a decent workplace comedy from Outsourced, well, you’re going to be on hold for a long time.