Will Outsourced, the NBC TV comedy set in a Mumbai call center and cast with more desi actors than Hollywood can shake a feather at, come back for another season? That’s the question up in the air for the moment. Geetika Tandon Lizardi makes her case for the show by preaching to the unconverted–people who think Outsourced is offensive, racist or condescending–in her LA Times article.
Lizardi says she’s one of the “five South Asian writers on the show telling stories that often come straight from our personal experiences.” Her credentials include living in Mumbai where she helped her husband run a call center, and she shares a couple of examples of those straight-from-personal-experience story lines.> An early episode featuring the “Indian head bobble” came from my non-Indian husband’s confusion in communicating with his call center staff. A sequence about Todd, the American boss, and his difficulties boarding an Indian train was inspired by a story another Indian writer shared about his grandmother, who spent a lifetime struggling to push her way onto crowded Indian trains, then employed the same tactics on her first visit to America, elbowing whole families to secure her spot on the monorail at Disneyland. (LAT)
It seems like she’s emphasizing the background of these episodes and the writing team to combat the criticism that the ignorance portrayed at times on the show is racist.
These stories made us laugh in the writers’ room. Yet when we highlight cultural differences on the show, we risk being called offensive. One online comment vehemently accused us of racism for the following line: Todd: “I didn’t know you guys celebrated Valentine’s Day.” But ignorance of a foreign culture isn’t racist; it’s just ignorance.
In other words, the jokes are coming from a place of love and affection from a team including desi writers making fun of their own, so chill out and enjoy. I doubt this argument makes a difference to people who were offended enough by the pilot and its jokes like the one referencing a character’s caste to never tune in again. Where it might make a difference is with the crowd who likes watching Outsourced but feels guilty about it.
Lizardi mentions that there’s been significant support for the highly DVR’d show, including on Twitter after episodes air. I’ve seen some of that in the form of pleas for Guptees and tweets by fans of the character played by Parvesh Cheena. Personally, I can’t imagine wanting to watch again if he wasn’t on the show, so if Outsourced is renewed I feel it’ll be in no small part due to the simultaneously annoying and endearing ham Gupta.
Will Outsourced be renewed for another season? Should it be? And for any Outsourced haters out there, did Lizardi’s article change your mind?
Update: A Seattle radio station interviewed Lizardi. “Microsoftie turned sitcom writer defends ‘racist’ show” has links to audio.