This new work-centric culture shock comedy is the latest show NBC thought could handle a spot on their coveted Thursday night. Surprisingly, the virtually unknown cast and show were a delightful finale to a night full of familiar comedy.
The new manager for a customer service call center, Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport), comes back from training to find his entire branch was fired, and the work was outsourced to India to save money. His only option is to move there to run the center as planned, or he's out of the job.
We find Todd in India, fresh to the country, customs, people, and just about everything related to the culture. Off the bat he is a great sport about trying to adapt as quickly as possible, not only because his character just seems like that kind of guy, but also because one of his employees, Rajiv, is clearly gunning for his position.
The show's weight is definitely in the culture clash. The majority of the pilot revolved around Todd and his all Indian staff reaching a happy medium on how to sell and promote the products that Mid-American Novelties is supposed to sell. The problem with the products, for the employees, is that they're all... well, mid-American novelties. Think plastic puke, singing fish on plaques, and mistletoe for your crotch.
In this scene, Todd meets another American manager who gives a great expository speech that pretty much sums up what the first season will likely be about: How to make his rough and tumble "Team B" a "Team A." Bonus: there's an easy joke about Indian food that goes on for too long.
After some novelty training, of course, he helps his team sell a bunch of shitty products to dumb Americans that aren't any the wiser. Everybody wins!
As for the love interests, it's pretty clear that Todd will end up having to choose between the hot and safe Aussie manager, Tonya, or the sharp and exotic employee, Asha. Hopefully the show will last long enough for these characters to develop a bit more.
Cringe Factor (Out of 10)
I'll give this a 4. Had it not been for the gratuitous bathroom humor and the cheap shot at Indian food it would have been lower. But in all honesty, I think NBC could have another dark horse on its hands. Outsourced has the same comedic flow that helped launch Community on to the must-watch list, but it is also original enough that people won't be comparing it to anything else on TV.
The cast, where the biggest name is probably Matt Walsh (from Upright Citizens Brigade fame), is extremely likable, genuine and has great chemistry. Rappaport, who hasn't even been in anything else, is a total natural and gives Todd that somewhat clueless but well intentioned personality that makes him great to watch. And the writing, though predictable (hey, it's only the pilot) is not nearly as cliche as it could have been. When dealing with a culture gap as wide as the Indian/American one, there's a fine line between funny and offensive, and the show maintained the funny without going for jokes that were too cheap.
I'm curious to see where it goes from here, because, though it's funny and charming now, I don't know how long they can milk the "Silly American! Silly Indian! It's okay, I'll teach you how we do things in my country! Ha! Ha! Ha!" stereotype without it getting old.