I’m not sure where to begin in expressing my dismay over NBC’s new “Outsourced” (Thursday at 9:30 p.m.), a new comedy (based on a 2006 indie film) about an American sent to India to manage a Midwestern novelty company’s relocated call center.
Start with the fact that NBC over the last few years has had a fantastic track record with putting actors with South Asian backgrounds – Mindy Kaling on “The Office,” Vik Sahay on “Chuck,” Danny Pudi on “Community” and Aziz Ansari on “Parks and Recreation” – into its shows, not to play “the Indian character,” but just to play characters. “The Office” did an episode about Diwali, but Kaling is there because she plays such a memorably superficial ditz. Ansari’s character on “Parks and Rec” actually had to Google facts about India to impress a more worldly friend at a party.
So it’s startling to watch “Outsourced” and realize that the large, predominantly Indian cast is for the most part asked to deliver lines that could only seem like jokes when delivered in an Indian accent. (Or, in one case, where an Indian character is able to affect a perfect redneck accent while explaining what grits are.) All the goodwill NBC has engendered in this area goes out the window by the end of the pilot episode.
Or maybe I should start with the show’s American hero, Todd Dempsy, played by Ben Rappaport. Rappaport himself comes across like a smarmy imitation John Krasinski, and the character is not only clueless about Indian culture, but abrasively, sniggeringly clueless about it, cracking jokes about sacred cows and the fact that one of his new employees is named Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan).
Or perhaps I should have begun by noting that the handful of jokes that have nothing to do with accents come from another American call center manager (Diedrich Bader), whose role in the pilot episode is to explain early and often that Indian food gives you diarrhea.
But really, what’s most upsetting is that NBC decided to bench “Parks and Recreation” not only the best comedy on that network, but on all of television last year – in favor of this cheap, lazy, unfunny mess.
Just depressing. Nothing to see here – and hopefully not for long.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org