Outsourced

Outsourced, the new Thursday NBC comedy, faces a tricky problem. About an American who goes to India to manage a low-grade consumer call center. So when you take people who are not generally depicted on American TV and depict them as lovable losers, you face the obvious risk of coming across as rather bigoted, or wallowing in stereotypes.

Logically interpreted, they avoid it by making even the Americans some form of awkward character, and by showing some highly competent Indians… but in doing so, they set up their main acceptability problem. Those Indians are competent at passing for American. Everything we see is from the very little window that Americans have on India. India may have a large section of the call center market, but it’s a nation of over a billion people; those workers are a small slice of the population. We don’t go outside the call center, although we do look out the window once to learn that cows are allowed to roam free… but the pilot shows no sense that India exists beyond what we already know about it through our little window on it. And to the degree that the wacky characters present a problem to our American lead, it’s not because they are Indian, but because they aren’t American and don’t understand being American.

But it is the pilot. The fish-out-of-water character is just being thrown into the deep end. Umm, wait, no, bad mixed metaphor. Perhaps he will get the bigger picture as time goes on.

Beyond that concern, it’s okay. The characters are individuals. There are moments of comedy in there, and moments of desperation in trying to build comedy (to a certain degree, making the call center one for a novelty products catalog is about as desperate as a whoopie cushion in attempting comedy). Time will tell if the interactions really build the characters and intercharacter relationships, or if all the workers end up being a Greek chorus of silliness. It could grow, and I’m willing to give it the time to let it try.

Still no unquestionably solid comedies this year. We shall see — it seems to me that in recent year, comedy has been better served by mid-season replacements than by start-of-season shows.

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Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 6:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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