Friday, September 24, 2010

Outsourced a bit better than expected

     I was quite perturbed to learn that NBC was holding Parks and Recreation until mid-season.  I admit that, because it shows that I was already biased against the network's newest sitcom, Outsourced, for pushing a great show off of the fall schedule.  The cheesy commercials for Outsourced didn't help, either, so when I sat down to watch it, I wasn't expecting much.  It wasn't terrible.  I'm not saying it's great.  But this cast of pretty much all newcomers delivered a few funny gags, but also, unexpectedly, some real heart.

     Ben Rappaport stars as Todd Dempsy.  Fresh out of manager training, he learns that the call center that he worked at has been outsourced to India, with all of the American employees being let go, save for him.  That is, as long as he is willing to move halfway around the globe to run the center where it is not based.  Reluctantly, because he is saddled with college debt and needs the job (highly relatable to today's audience), Todd takes the promotion and is off.

     The first worked Todd meets is Rajiv (Rizwan Manji, Privileged), the assistant manager who wants Todd's job.  Whether he gets it because Todd is promoted back to the states, or fails miserably and is fired, he doesn't care.  Because of that, he has hired a staff that isn't exactly the best in the business.  And yet, they don't seem that bad.  Perhaps it's Todd's inspired leadership, but whatever the reason, by the end of episode one, most of them were doing quite well.  That's where the heart comes in.  Todd refuses to give up on any of the misfits, believing that they can all succeed.  He may still be on a high from his management training, but it works.  Even Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan), whom Rajiv hired just to fire in front of the other employees to scare them, manages to sell an add-on.

     The cast is populated with a few interesting characters.  One is a man in a turban who had no lines, but always left the room when Todd showed up.  I am curious what that is about.  I also liked Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan), despite his terrible name.  He just seems so enthusiastic about life, the job, and women, it's hard not to catch a little of his good spirits.  I'm sure many of the other minor characters will begin to stand out over time.  It's sort of like The Office with a competent boss.

     Of course, there is romantic tension already set up in the pilot.  Todd's two love interests are clearly going to be beautiful native Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood), who seems like the smartest person on his staff, and the Australian manager of another call center in the building, Tonya (Pippa Black, Neighbours).  Todd's foil will be the far less tolerant Charlie (Diedrich Bader, The Drew Carey Show), another call center manager.  His part seemed unnecessary, and unless they improve his dialogue, I'm hoping that his tenure on Outsourced is short lived.

     I am still wishing that Parks and Recreation gets back on the air soon.  It is far superior to Outsourced.  However, the latter delivers more than just stereotypes (more jokes were had at the expense of Americans than Indians), and it will be worth watching at least a couple more episodes.

     Outsourced airs Thursday nights at 9:30 on NBC.

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