I had an interesting experience with “Outsourced.” I watched it over the summer and wasn’t impressed. It just didn’t make me laugh. I didn’t care if it was offensive or not, it just wasn’t funny. Then I saw it again with an audience at a public screening and it got more laughs, and was endearing. I had the same experience with “Community” last year, although “Outsourced” isn’t as good as “Community” even the second time around.
It’s a weird conundrum. What good is playing well to a crowd on TV? Most of the time we’re going to watch it by ourselves. I guess it can give you a quicker sense of the elements that might grow on you in repeat viewings. It won’t take several episodes to realize Abed and Troy are the funny ones if you see people laughing at them right away. That’s “Community” though. “Outsourced” still doesn’t have an Abed and Troy.
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The premise is an American gets sent to Mumbai to run a call center for an American catalog. It could be “the office” in India, but instead it’s a really cheap high concept stereotypical comedy. I have hope for it though. How many of the great comedies had good pilots? Maybe the pilot got all the easy gags out of the way and now they’ll move on to the good stuff.
Of course the Indians don’t understan the American products they’re going to have to sell. It doesn’t help that they’re stupid. They work for a novelty catalog. So they’ve got dancing boobs and mistletoe belts and mugs and cheese hats because that’s funny, right? Cheese hats are funny. Mistletoe belts mean he has to explain a sex joke in primetime. What a knee-slapper!
It might be too late already to change the catalog. They kind of committed to that. But maybe we won’t have to hear about products anymore and it can just be about the universal experience of phone operators reading from a script that doesn’t apply to 99% of the actual calls they receive.
There are other Americans in the office too. There’s a hot Aussie sexpot and a bitter American who hates Indian food. Because Indian food makes you poop. That’s why there are no Indian restaurants in America. Or wait, are there? I live a sheltered life.
I’m not so concerned with the Indian characters. They’re more generic stereotypes than racial stereotypes. Sure, there’s the assistant manager who’s so excited about work he either wants his boss to do well, so he gets promoted, or do badly so he gets fired. Otherwise, the operators include a shy girl, a ladies man, an annoying guy… same as Dunder Mifflin.
I think there’s potential here. I think this suffers from pilotitis. Instead of getting to know their characters, they’re trying so hard to be funny, they’ve come up with things that won’t sustain and aren’t even funny the first time. Think about it, “The Office” is a paper company but the characters do hilarious things each week.
Hopefully the writers will have a chance to get to know the characters, move away from the Indian/American differences and just tell stories. Look, if “Parks and Recreation” took a season to build up with Amy Poehler in the lead, we can cut “Outsourced” a few more weeks of slack. But they better have a very special episode real soon.
“Outsourced” premieres September 23rd at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.