Some would argue that NBC’s “Outsourced” isn’t worth the trouble, but in recent days, veteran comedy writers Ken Levine and Earl Pomerantz have both taken the time to explore the 9:30 p.m. Thursday comedy’s potential. Their critiques are different, but I’m sympathetic to them both.
Levine focuses on numerous details, big and small, in the show’s construction and finds myriad missed opportunities, such as with the lead character of Todd, played by Ben Rappaport: “Nice guy, not particularly funny, accepting his situation is not compelling and not giving you much to work with.” And it’s true that there’s something exceedingly whitebread about Todd that can be frustrating. He seems conceived as a common denominator (of white men, at least) to give us an entry point into this foreign world, but he’s almost too ordinary to care about.
Pomerantz has his quibbles as well, but he is mostly taken with the feel of the show. “It’s not ‘New Yorkers fighting over a cab’ comedy,” he writes. “It’s more yoga comedy. Unforced and not intense. It leaves room to relax and breathe.” He also points to the uniqueness of the setting and characters, citing the head-bobble scene in the clip above.
Through its first three episodes, “Outsourced” clearly didn’t have it all figured out, but I do think it contains the foundation of something better. They are hitting some good culture-clash moments, clumsily at times but artfully at others. They have at least one potential breakout performer in the superb Rebecca Hazlewood (Asha), along with one sitcom vet who is great in everything he’s in, Diedrich Bader. They have some nice relationship and friendship story arcs developing. And I don’t understand the accusations by some critics of offensiveness: The show steers clear of generalizations about the culture, making each character, love them or hate them, a unique person. If the people of India come off looking stupid or simplistic at times, so do the people of the United States.
“Community,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” are all NBC comedies that started off rough before becoming top-notch fare. “Outsourced” needs to do a lot better to follow that path, but I wouldn’t rule it out.