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TV Review: Outsourced – “Guess Who’s Coming to Delhi?”

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Many critics weren’t instant fans of NBC’s Outsourced when it premiered last fall, and that may be putting it mildly. However, I found it slightly amusing, and worthy of some time to grow. Months later, while it remains the weak point in a very strong night of sitcoms, Outsourced has become pretty darn enjoyable, and I don’t think the racial humor is excessive, as some have accused. Or at least, the offensive stuff isn’t all there is to the show.

Take last night’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Delhi,” for instance. Sure, the cultural insensitivity was still there. Charlie (Diedrich Bader) even got a complaint about it from one of his staff. Jerry (Matt Walsh) arrived in India for the first time to check out the operation, and he completely disrespected customs by kissing women’s hands, taking a bunch of his employees to a bar and buying them shots, and tipping a cow, which landed himself and others in jail. But the characters who did those bad things were looked upon by the others as fools. Jerry spent time behind bars! What better payback is that? It’s not like the show is condoning that sort of behavior.

The nice thing is, now that the series has had time to flesh things out, the characters are getting better defined. Rajiv (Rizwan Manjani) is still a tool who hates Todd (Ben Rappaport), but he also shows signs of compassion now and then, and really wants to marry the woman he loves. Todd himself has begun to embrace the culture around him, respecting traditions and boundaries, once he is aware of them, anyway. Gupta (Parvesh Cheena) is still the workplace idiot, but his efforts to help Charlie for no benefit to himself demonstrates what a big heart he has. I have really started liking these people.

Plus, the humor can be pretty funny. Yes, it was wrong for Charlie to rip arms off a statue of a god after using it as a back scratcher, but it was also fairly humorous. Watching Pinky (Thushari Jayasekera) dance or Ajeet (Guru Singh) barely tolerate Jerry were both pleasures. Gupta realizing that a picture of tourists in front of the Eiffel Tower was taken in Vegas instead of Paris because of the drinks in their hands was also pretty good. These are just a few examples.

If you gave up on Outsourced last fall, give it another try. You might like what you see. Outsourced airs Thursday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Sharad

    This episode just crossed the lines…Absolutely stupid and overly insensitive…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I apologize for a misspelling. The actor playing Rajiv is Rizwan Manji, and Manjani.

  • Jack

    Removing the hands of Ganesh was very offending, religiously insensitive, and uncalled for. I used to like the show before that episode, but not anymore.
    Typical replies I have heard are: “It’s not like the show is condoning that sort of behavior” are weightless. You got to decide whether you want to Humor or try to educate people with what is not condoned in others religion, in the latter case actually demonstrating what is not condoned is definitely a foolish thing.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I guess the question is, do people have a sense of humor about themselves and their beliefs? I laugh just as much at George Carlin’s archbishop is Dogma, who markets Catholocism as a cheap gimmick as I do at Ganesh as a backscratcher. (I was raised Catholic). If the offending humor is done to tear down a people, it is unacceptable. If it’s done with respect to the culture, and the character(s) doing the offending is portrayed in a bad light for offending, I see no problem with it.

  • Outsourced Fan

    Couldn’t agree more with the review. I really can’t stand people saying this show is racist – I’m Indian, and all my Indian friends love the show, it seems to be mostly non-Indians who are in an outcry over how “racist” the show is. Any humor they are mining about Indian culture is actually true! Gropers on the train, oversensitivity about certain sexual things, but then completely okay with others, etc. And I agree with Jerome in that Charlie and Jerry, who are completely ignorant, are played as such on purpose and are clearly not supposed to be celebrated but laughed at for their ignorance… much like any other funny character on TV – Michael Scott, Always Sunny guys, etc.

    And even in this episode, the whole point was that Charlie, who started ignorant, ended up embracing the culture and learning to appreciate it at the end. I’ve known many non-Indian friends of mine who have visited India and have not known what to do. That doesn’t make them racist, just makes them unaccustomed to a foreign country!

    And lastly, I’ll stop my rant soon, the worst argument I’ve heard is when people say that this show is horrible because the Indian characters talk in accents…. Um, hello?! They ARE IN INDIA. OF COURSE THEY HAVE ACCENTS. All my relatives in India have accents. If this show were set in Germany, the native Germans would have German accents. The fact that viewers feel unnecessarily uncomfortable hearing these accents is what’s inherently racist, NOT that they are speaking in them.

    Okay, done. It’s great to see a show willing to take a chance on Indian actors who have not had the opportunity to shine elsewhere.

  • chrian

    The show is growing on me also.

    I am a bit surprised by some of the comments about “insensitivity” or “racism”. It is hard to think of any comedy show ever that doesn’t base its humour on the struggle to adjust to things cultural or social.

    I mean, should the portrayal of a Cuban American Male struggling to relate to his Irish American Wife in I Love Lucy be taken as offensive to women? I just don’t see how Outsourced is any different from any other series.

    In any case, Pippa Black is spectacular!

  • Rahul

    The show is certainly insensitive to Indian culture and shows the country and its people in a very poor light. Why do they have to derive most of their humor from insensitive jokes and disrespecting Indian customs ?
    Using Lord Ganesha as a back scratcher is very very offensive.

  • Swapna

    Jerome, if it was your god whose hands got ripped off would you still find it funny????? I did not have any issues with outsource until this one episode.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I would, actually. I mentioned I love the movie Dogma, which attacks many commonly held Catholic beliefs, despite being born and raised Catholic. But again, it is the fact that other characters see this offensive man as a fool and offensive that makes the joke not so bad, at least in my opinion.

  • PATEL

    This was a great episode

  • BJ

    How can one argue that it shows the country in poor light? The show is actually educating people on some of the customs and values of India to those that wouldn’t know otherwise (just like certain characters in the show). Hell, it’s like saying that The Office is offensive because it shows the United States and it’s people in a negative light. That comment would be just as absurd.

    Comedy is comedy. If this is not your cup of tea, or if you are not emotionally mature enough to handle it, you should watch other programming. It’s not like they are hiding anything; the show, it’s name, and everything about it revolves around this type of comedy.

  • Devika

    Guys-Its so easy to say just walk away from humor that you do not like.
    I can bet a million bucks that if someone tore up the Torah or the bible there would be an uproar in the US.Specially the Torah since the holocaust is a sensitive topic.

  • Anjali

    “Indians” who claim to like this show are not in fact Indians and are rather American Born Confused Desis who have a very skewed opinion of India and love to hear criticism about India or criticize it in front of their white friends to gain popularity and common ground.

  • Anjali

    Also the actors who so easily make fun of stuff on the show are all of Indian origin because their parents come from India but they did not grow up in India and will never feel the same level of kinship for the country.No wonder they have sold their souls to the devil.

  • Bombay Born

    Honestly, the comments above are a lot more offensive than anything Outsourced could come up with. Yes, negative things about India are portrayed on the show occasionally. Why is this a problem? Are we too “patriotic” to admit that our country, like any other, is flawed?

    I absolutely agree with Jerome when he points out that cultural insensitivity is never condoned on Outsourced. Obviously the humour is derived from Indian customs… that’s the premise of the show. Personally, I’m a fan.

    Oh, and with regards to selling souls to the devil… if you’re Hindu, you clearly don’t know much about you’re religion, and if you’re not, the Ganesh thing shouldn’t bother you much anyway. =)

  • himmy oh

    I have several Indian / foreign studenst who enjoy the “free” humor on Cable / Direct TV.

    How many paki can you fit in jersey city flat.
    It depends on the size of the bed roll (lay)

    cheers!

  • smitalal

    This show was incredibly offensive. You wouldn’t pull off the arms of Christ, or denigrate Islamic or Jewish art, so why Hindu art and culture? It’s vulgar, and disrespectful.

    And I like the show, so it was even more disappointing.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I beg to differ that ‘you wouldn’t pull the arms of Christ, etc.’ There have been plenty of TV shows and movies that have dared to insult all religions and still been funny. It’s not usually found on network TV, but…

    I am pleased this article is still getting comments supporting both sides long after it was published. Thank you all for your interest!

  • Abhay Patil

    Its not what an Indian would want to see. Yes, the show does a good job at giving knowledge about Indian Culture, but humor should have its limits, this show just crossed the limits. Its foolish to say many have done this mistake and hence it can be repeated.

  • BK

    i think the main problem with this show is not its cultural insensitivity (cultural differences have long been a source of humour, and as long as it is done in a harmless, light-hearted fashion it is a tradition that should continue). The real problem is simply that the writing is lazy. cliched, and deeply unfunny.

    As a comparison (and of course noting that the following shows are completely different, but nevertheless focusing on the writing), compare this lazy, recycled humour to the razor sharp wit displayed by Community, the warmth and hilarity that infuses the Modern Family, as well as the likes of the Office and Parks and Recreation.

    Unfortunately for Outsourced, it is surrounded in the TV schedules by superior comedies, the majority of which also happen to be on the same channel, and even on the same night!

  • Yak Natum

    Pinky if delightful. My family and I’v attended most of Thushari’s plays in the Lankan community in California and she is a fantastic performer. We are proud to see her on Outsourced.

  • Sumit

    I am Indian and I don’t find the show racist.

    What I think is happening is that there are many Americans who don’t want to see Indians on prime-time and to explain their bigotry say the show is racist. To the Indians who say that it portrays them in a bad light – the show has done more to highlight Indian culture than any other show or Hollywood movie I have ever seen (there was a whole episode on paan!!).

    The show could be better and the Ganesh incident was ill-judged but I for one welcome a show that is generally funny and warm, well cast and portrays Indians as people rather than job functions.

    It is still amazing to me that there is a network show on American prime-time set in India – I don’t think some people realise how big a deal that is. Put it this way even if the show became a hit (which it wont its headed for cancellation) I highly doubt that any other network would even think of doing such a thing. The next time you see a show set in Seoul or Beirut let me know!

  • Nicki

    I think the show is funny and explores the cultural divides. It’s likely to offend the over sensitive but perhaps there are different shows for these people. The overall look and feel is appealing, characters are likeable, sympathetic and the premise is interesting. Humour is very subjective. As someone that has worked with an outsourced department, this show is relatable without a heavy agenda. I hope it gets another season as it’s something a little different. I also don’t think it would be as good if it became any more sensitive than itcalready is. Imagine how dull and unrealistic it would be if there was no conflict?

  • http://outsourcedtv.wordpress.com Paolo Cruz

    I agree, Charlie (Deidrich Bader) was a total jerk. I love the show and all but this specific episode was over the line. I am not Indian but I know a number of them. I can tell most if not all of them are religious. The writers of the show could have been more sensitive with how they laid out the episode. They could have used something else instead of messing with their gods. Charlie’s character has an abysmal understanding of other aspects of the Indian culture, they could have ran with that instead.

  • Jack

    I’m glad this show was cancelled. In this economy it’s a disgrace that NBC would have a series about sending our jobs to India when so many Americans are out of work and would love their jobs. I just got off the phone with a woman from a call center in India and she told me that to upgrade one flight that leaves in a month and goes from JFK to Helsinki, Finland would cost me $17,000. She refused to let me speak to her manager when I told her I didn’t believe the fair would be that expensive. She insisted it was. I mean, I wasn’t renting the entire plane to myself.

    I’ve found very few of these workers competent. 75% of them have always given me misinformation, or had no idea how to help me. One woman out of India who worked for Dell Computers, didn’t even know where the serial number was located on laptop.

    Most of them sound like robots because they’re trying to fool you into thinking they’re American. And then they’re given false names like “Sally” or “Ellie” or “Andrew”.