Outsourced…. It was OK

DVR’d Outsourced and watched it this afternoon and…. I guess I mostly agree with the New York Times. The show wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I was certainly expecting a much less flattering portrayal of desis, crude jokes about accents, and the like. Instead, most of the show was a traditional fish-out-of-water comedy with the joke often on the opey white guy.

The variety of supporting cast sorta intrinsicly ensure that desi portrayals aren’t unidimensional and at least a couple of the characters have room to emerge with some sophistication. Todd, the lead, has got potential white and desi love interests, a back stabbing nemesis, a project, and a budding protégé.

My main problem with the show….it just wasn’t that funny. Todd’s the most developed character and most of his jokes are just too cliché to really hit. The writers appear so eager to avoid simplistic desi characters that they make Todd the simplistic “fresh from Kansas” character instead (does he really expect everyone on the planet to understand a Packer Cheesehead?)

Still, you can see how it takes the Office formula, shakes it up a bit, and tries to create something new. But while so much of the Office is about capturing character nuance (we’ve all worked with or known someone like Dwight), it’s tough to do the same with comparatively alien characters. At least in an initial, 30 minute episode. So, I plan on DVR’ing the upcoming episodes and giving the show a chance to dig out of the laughter deficit it’s currently in.

Miss the episode? Well you can watch it all online here -

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34 thoughts on “Outsourced…. It was OK

  1. Diedrich Bader was about the only character with a really funny line – about the indian call center trainees who can mimic accents being like pod people. The assistant manager Rajiv has potential though I wish the accents would improve. It’s like the actors came from the Jimi Mistry school of accent coaching. THere are plenty of funny genuine indian accents to avoid going the easy route of the generic middle easter accent combined with Indian accent. I did get a few chuckles out of that quiet Madhuri character.

    I actually wish they would get offensive. Maybe that would buy this bland show some edge. The only offensive thing about the show is how outdated some of these jokes are. Maybe they writers should have toured a current call center to mine jokes.

    The funny thing is I hear some opinions from some people on sites like EW that people who lost a job to outsourcing wouldnt find such a concept watchable. Say what? Are we going to feed into that sensitivity too?

  2. This is an overly generous summary. I thought it was awful. I cringed so hard my face cramped.
    The cow jokes? Come on. NBC’s Thursday night lineup otherwise tries to cleverly step right into “sensitive” topics like gender, race, sexuality and all the accompanying stereotypes & prejudice, and is (usually) great at it. This sets them right back to stupid.

  3. First of all, “most of his jokes are just too cliché” is atrocious call-center or mall-rat English: “clichéd”, okay?

    Second: How can you fail to compare the show to the pretty darn good 2006 movie?

    Please, please, make it worthwhile to visit this site.

  4. not sure which lead character are you talking about the Ben Rappaport is the one who goes to India as a manager & his name is Todd. I thought the show was a legit copy of the movie ‘Outsourced’.

  5. The “joke” that made me (a random white guy) cringe and even get a little angry was when Rajiv (the backstabbing assistant manager) said that he only hired Madhuri (the very quiet woman) so that she could be fired in order to motivate the other workers through fear of losing their jobs. He explained that “She doesn’t belong here anyway. She’s from a lower caste.” It seems to me that jokes about caste should be used to point out the ridiculousness of it, not to belittle one of the most sympathetic characters.

  6. How can a comedy that’s “just not that funny” be “OK.” Would a camera that doesn’t take pictures be “OK?” Or a lamp that doesn’t light?

  7. I’m sorry but I completely disagree with the NY Times review. Making fun of Indian characters I’m fine with, furthering terrible stereotypes I’m not. I don’t even know where to begin. But here’s a shot: a. The accents are all wrong. You make a show about Indian people with Indian actors and you can’t get the accent right. Really? b. So much stuff that was just not well-researched. From the white guy namaste-ing a woman because she can’t shake his hand to the brown potential-friend character unable to understand how you can date someone and not necessarily to marry them. Then, of course, there’s the super offensive “lower-caste” line — both unrealistic and insensitive. c. The Indian food gives you the runs jokes — juvenile, silly, reasonably offensive. d. The weird silent sikh guy who keeps walking out — what the hell is that about?? I’m sure there’s plenty I missed out. I don’t know which part of this show is “okay”.

    • “From the white guy namaste-ing a woman because she can’t shake his hand “

      Umm, you do realize that not everyone in India has the same practices and I have certainly met Indian women who do not shake men’s hands. Especially is they are from a smaller city (like Jaipur), a rural area, or a very traditional family in the city. Hand shaking is a western thing– not everyone in India adopted it.

  8. The Manmeet joke was so awful: “Really, your name is ‘man-meat’ ?” In general, I think the show’s not completely horrible due to decent acting and an interesting concept that has potential. Beats two and a half men any day. Any day.

  9. But, but, where are the south indians in this show? Isn’t this outsourcing business dominated by south Indians?

  10. Also, with the ongoing brouhaha over the Commonwealth Games exposing India’s filthy, corrupt and incompetent underbelly for all the world to go “chee chee” over, doesn’t that make the clean, modern, efficient scenario here look exceptional and deceitful?

    BTW, why hasn’t anyone started a thread on the CWG fiasco yet? Don’t tell me that doesn’t effect Indian-americans.

    • No it was not and it deeply offends me that they are discriminating against Indian cows. I shall star an online petition on this matter as soon as the last airbender casting fiasco is over.

  11. Ramble alert.

    The reaction I had several times was, “What the heck is wrong with Rajeev?!” What kind of accent is that supposed to be, exactly? Why is he in that position if he repels me so easily? “I’m simply planning ahead”, “But also, your loss is my win”… What?! This guy is defective.

    Secondly, everyone’s accent is wrong. Rajeev is just wrong. Asha actually sounds indian, but that crisp convent accent is not something you hear too often these days. Especially not from adults who are not english teachers in convents. Manmeet and Gupta have Generic Indian Accents that are actually a mishmash of several accents and that maybe 5 Indians actually have. That’s a bit irritating.

    And everyone is culturally obtuse. I mean, I’m sure Manmeet knew that Americans date more casually than Indians. (Though, “Did she say no?” “Not often.” Classic.) And Rajeev’s diatribe on cows is overkill. (I mean, cows are in the streets because after they’re all milked out it’s illegal to kill them, and they generally die a slow and painful death from various kinds of food poisoning. I really don’t think Rajeev would get worked up about ‘getting the cream’.) And then Todd defines freedom in the most depressing way I’ve ever heard.

    And I guess there’s an effort to give the Indians a personality, but it doesn’t work. Manmeet has a heart-to-heart with the guy who called him man meat? Madhuri is scared shitless all the time, even when going to the pantry? And no one gets offended at the crotch mistletoe? Todd made it sound like you’d get arrested for not kissing the monkey. And defended it!

    One thing is accurate though. An American might well get lynched if he says “You guys have some funky headgear yourself” in public.

    Apart from all that, it just wasn’t funny. Indians are talkative people! Where’s all the hindi? Where’s the food offerings? Where’s the pathos of this whole scenario? Educated people sitting on a phone, selling stuff they can’t relate to to people they can’t talk to, taking orders from someone who defends mounted plastic boobs! Stuck in a place where you can’t eat the food and can’t understand the language, and no one’s heard of deodorant. This is comedy gold. Come on, people.

  12. “So much stuff that was just not well-researched. From the white guy namaste-ing a woman because she can’t shake his hand to the brown potential-friend character unable to understand how you can date someone and not necessarily to marry them.”

    I think you missed the point of the namaste thing. To me it came across as another jab to Todd being an ignorant American – probably saw namaste on TV one day and figured he’d copy it, all while convinced he was doing the right thing. As for the dating/marriage thing, I’m Pakistani-American and when I went to Pakistan I met plenty of people with similar attitudes as Manmeet. I know Pakistan doesn’t = India, but don’t pretend there aren’t millions of Indians who think premarital sex is weird or wrong and arranged marriage is the norm. Some of my Pakistani cousins are shocked I’m 20 and my mom isn’t busy husband-shopping for me. Maybe it’s the conservative Muslim culture, but sex isn’t openly talked about there either. Many of them assume most Americans don’t engage in sex before marriage, because that’s what they’re accustomed to.

    “The Indian food gives you the runs jokes — juvenile, silly, reasonably offensive. “

    Why is it wrong to admit Indian food gives you the runs? When I went to Pakistan the food gave me the runs. I quickly learned what I could and couldn’t eat there without feeling crap-tastic.

  13. My reaction was “meh.” It wasn’t very clever, and thus not very funny. I doubt I’ll watch it again.

  14. Coming from a family of educated, hard-working Indians, it’s frustrating to see our race stripped down to such a degrading level. Cultural differences are always a good go-to topic for humor, especially for stand-up comedians (although if I have to hear another “Englishman, Irishman, Scottishman”, bar joke, I’ll lose my mind), but “Outsourced” fails to explore cultural differences – rather, it insinuates India = silly, while America = clever (and what a clever invention that fake dog poo is). Indians are hugely underrepresented on the big and small screen, but when portrayed in this incredibly demeaning manner, it’s safe to say that I’d rather have no representation at all.

    more From: “Outsourced” – NBC’s Latest Foray Into Racist Xenophobia

  15. It’s possible that I missed the point about the hand-shake. But Lindsey, my main contention is a woman working at a call centre in Mumbai will shake a man’s hand. The show wasn’t set in Jaipur or a small Indian village. It was set in Mumbai. I’m from Mumbai and I’ll tell you that every working woman in Mumbai WILL shake a man’s hand. Same principle applies to the dating without marriage joke. I can promise you that young people working at a call centre in a big city will certainly not be alien to the idea of casual dating. Not everyone may indulge in it, but they certainly wouldn’t be shocked/reverentially surprised about it. This show is anachronistic and badly researched.

  16. ‘It’s possible that I missed the point about the hand-shake. But Lindsey, my main contention is a woman working at a call centre in Mumbai will shake a man’s hand. The show wasn’t set in Jaipur or a small Indian village. It was set in Mumbai. I’m from Mumbai and I’ll tell you that every working woman in Mumbai WILL shake a man’s hand. Same principle applies to the dating without marriage joke. I can promise you that young people working at a call centre in a big city will certainly not be alien to the idea of casual dating. Not everyone may indulge in it, but they certainly wouldn’t be shocked/reverentially surprised about it. This show is anachronistic and badly researched. ‘

    I am not going to argue about the show being badly researched (that’s another point entirely) but I still disagree completely with your argument about shaking men’s hands… first and foremost, not everyone who currently lives and works in Mumbai grew up there. Many people have come from other areas– areas that, like I said, may not follow western habits. Even some people born and raised in Mumbai do not live in the “same” more open and global middle and upper class Mumbai.

    If you take a look at the women who wouldn’t shake his hand– you’ll also notice that she is one of the women wearing a more traditional salwaar suit. Many of the other female characters who have chosen a more western/global dress are not opposed to shaking hands. Which to me makes sense. At the institute where I learned Hindi, there were many men and women who had worked with western people for years, and knew a lot about western culture, yet some did not shake hands of men, by their own choice. Just like the woman in this show– they always tended to be the women who dressed more traditionally (i.e. did not wear western clothes).

    I also have to add– as an American women living in India, I did not always shake hands with men. Sometimes they stuck their hand out and I namaste’d them. Why? Because from some people I got a particularly sketchy vibe and thought that a nice Indian namaste would send the right message. Maybe this women thought Todd (was that his name?) was particularly skeezy and didn’t want to shake his hand.

  17. If you take a look at the women who wouldn’t shake his hand– you’ll also notice that she is one of the women wearing a more traditional salwaar suit. Many of the other female characters who have chosen a more western/global dress are not opposed to shaking hands.

    Hell. I’ve met quite a few Indian women here in America who don’t like to shake hands. Typically it was the Muslim ones, but they seem otherwise pretty “modern,” no hijab or anything, but still not cool with physical contact.

  18. Just a thought I was wondering if any Mutineers could clear this up from me: a lot of the call center employees seem to be English Desis (based on Wikipedia research). Where are all the funny American Desis at?

  19. Vineea, the real American Desis are too busy acting in actual comedies on NBC instead of that poor excuse of a sitcom. I disagree that Seinfeld had a poor start. It may have been raw to start off wth, but the edge was always there.

    I don’t think the problem is the stereotypes. Stereotypes can be funny. But the stereotypes they deal in are off the mark. The problem is the show is not funny. It’s not even offensive in the right places.

  20. You know, as much as I was left unimpressed by the show initially, it still is a very watchable show. The cast is appealing. Once I got past the generic middle eastern – indian hybrid of accents, it is really not that bad. I particularly liked the scene where Rajiv the assistant manager catches the boss on the security cam and repeats behind the monitor whatever his recorded image says on camera.

  21. Geez, people here are getting way more fussed about this show than necessary. I personally find it very cute and funny. It seems like people on here just can’t poke fun at themselves and have no sense of humor. “The cow isn’t Indian, she didn’t shake his hand, Madhuri wouldn’t exist in Mumbai, yada yada yawn yawn”

    I can’t wait to watch it every Thursday…it’s nice seeing an ensemble of Indians on American tv…that would have been a huge shock 10 years ago. I still remember being a kid and shouting to my parents, look there is an Indian on the commercial and we would all run to the tv with a big smile on our face. Grow up and stop complaining about the idiosyncrasies. It’s a comedy tv show…since when have they ever been politically correct?

  22. I heard with Parks and Recreation returning, Outsourced moves to 10:30. I have no idea what will be at 8:30 considering 30 ROck moves to 10 at some point. But that would make it at least 5 out f 6 shows with an Indian American cahracter on the same network on one night. That is such a huge difference in opportunities when you compare it to the TV opportunities from merely 5 years ago. Let’s not forget Big Bang Theory is on the same night too. Thursdays are desi nights.

    I think despite our initial disappointment, it is interesting that Outsourced is pretty watchable despite only one known actor(the neighbor from office space). in the last few episodes, they have had some pretty sharp scenes sprinkled here and there.

  23. I gotta say it again. This show has gotten its own groove. Could the show be smarter? sure. But it makes me laugh more than most shows on network tv these days. Anisha Nagarajan shines. And each episode usually has one really good moment. The latest one had the sikh guy trying to beat Todd to the bathroom and the variety of changing expressions on his face as he realizes he won’t make it to the bathroom before Todd was hilarious. And the way Anisha Nagarajan says “she’s shwing her underwear” was spot on in terms of how some Indians would react. all she missed was “Cheeeeee.” at the beginning.

    I am actually hoping the show won’t get canceled . I did not realize the assistant manager Rajiv was actually in American Desi as one of the students.

  24. Oh, and when the Indians high five each other and say “yeaah, India” when they spot the medical staff on the field for the Chiefs game was hilarious.

  25. I am so glad I gave this show a chance, it started out a little dull but I have warmed up to it. Likeable characters and some funny moments each episode. And I agree Anisha Nagarajan is awesome. Also the guy who plays Rajiv, but Gupta is my favorite <3

  26. I gotta agree with those who’ve said the show has grown on them. I have really enjoyed the past 3-4 episodes and think the show is starting to hit its stride with storyline and character development. I don’t think it will get to 30 Rock or Seinfeld levels of success, but I find it really funny and hope it does well in its new time slot.

  27. Jes, I used to like 30 Rock, but I htink the show has become too scatterbrained for its own good in recent eps. A couple of recent eps were downright unwatchable. It’s time 30 Rock starts including the writer characters in more plots again. The Office is showing its age. THey should keep the show fresh by rotating some of the players. Maybe Jay Chandrashekhar and the Broken Lizard troupe can guest in some eps as consultants or temps or clients and inject some of their humor(though it would have be network safe).