During the summer when I watched “America’s Got Talent” I kept seeing the commercial for a new show in the fall season titled “Outsourced”. To me it seemed hilarious with its clash of cultures. Not only that, I use to work in a call center (before they were outsourced, ironically enough) for a number of years. This was the first type of job I had while in high school. Also, I was fascinated with its intriguing South Asian cast and the Indian culture.
In my humble opinion based on what I had seen from the 30-second spots it had great potential of being a very successful show. I made a mental note to myself to watch the premiere. Of course I was aware of the internet buzz with many assuming it would be offensive, stereotypical and racist. My main concern was if the show would be as funny as its hype. I’ve lost count how many times I was looking forward to a show or movie based on adverts then be completely disappointed.
Let me tell that was not the case at all with ‘Outsourced’. It made me laugh from start to finish. Don’t worry about the negative reviews, because each side gets punched. What I mean by that is when there was a joke about the Indians it came back with a joke on American culture. In a weird way we get to see ourselves in whole different light from the South Asian perspective. One thing I came away with immediately after watching this 30-minute sitcom was its powerful message. Basically, people are the same all over the world.
The show’s plot is about an American company based in Kansas City called Mid-American Novelties. They just closed up their U.S. call center. Todd Dempsey, the main character, just got back from the company’s managerial training program. He gets a rude awakening from his boss he’s immediately going to India to train the manager and customer service representatives over there.
Thus begins Todd’s journey to a whole new world with very different customs. I loved when he asked the employees to introduce themselves. This is where we got to know the main call center reps. Manmeet is the one you may be familiar with from the ‘Outsourced’ TV commercial. He takes the first phone order for the company. The caller in the U.S. realizes he’s called India and hangs up before Manmeet could get the sale.
Asha is the very alluring lady who seems to fancy Todd. I have no doubt they will hook-up soon in a future episode. Rajiiv is the calculating Indian manager who is anxious to become the official manager when Todd leaves. No matter where you go there’s always the socially inept co-worker who no one, not even Todd, wants to associate with. Well, that is Gupta, the one you saw doing the weird dance in the commercial.
Last but not least was the most intriguing character to me. She spoke so softly no one could hear her. Her name is Madhuri with the big, wide eyes who wore a traditional sari and the dot on her forehead. Madhuri reminds me so much of a Japanese high school student I taught while in Japan. It was the first day of class and I asked the question ‘What is your favorite thing?” When I came to this student she spoke so softly I honestly could not hear her. I asked her to repeat it a number of times till I heard a response of the word “fruits’.
We are also introduced to a couple of Westerner (non-Asian) characters. One is a very pretty female Australian call center manager who takes an immediate liking to Todd. The other is what many online critics have called the “ugly American”. It’s an expression referring to Americans who act rude and offensively when they’re abroad.
Yes, I am aware of this type all too well. Charlie Davies is another American call center manager for some gun manufacturer. He briefs Todd on the type of employees he’s been saddled with called the “B Team”. If I had one negative about the show it was Charlie’s offensive, disgusting and vulgar references to Indian cuisine. He made a remark that was definitely bathroom humor at its worst.
Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Outsourced’ next week. The employees now have to take it up a notch with their sales calls. Otherwise, they’ll face termination mandated by the U.S. corporate office. That definitely sounds like a realistic call center obsessed with sales numbers. Hopefully this show will be successful in the near future, because it’s unique, refreshing and comical. I’m glad it’s on a major network instead of some obscure cable channel. In my opinion there’s not a lot of funny sitcoms nowadays. ‘Outsourced’ is one of those rare comedy shows that seems to work.
Ken Tucker, “‘Outsourced premiere review: Offensive, funny, or inoffensively unfunny?”, EW
Outsourced (TV series), Wikipedia