So there I was watching Outsourced last night and you know what, I wasn’t amused. I know I haven’t written one of these columns for a while and I could delve into the funny (though slightly sloppy technically) 30 Rock live episode, but I’m not doing that, I’m doing Outsourced.
Now, I wasn’t amused because Outsourced wasn’t funny. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t funny, not in the slightest, but that’s not why I wasn’t amused. I wasn’t amused because the impetus for the plot was ridiculous (yes, more ridiculous than the rest of the series).
If you don’t know the show, it follows the adventures of Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) as he goes about his newfound life as the manager of a call center in India. It’s not a life that Todd would have chosen for himself but rather one that was thrust upon him when his company outsourced the call center and he needed to keep his paycheck. I’m not sure where the jokes are supposed to come from so I won’t get into that (yet), but the episodes so far have all followed a pretty standard formula where the cultures clash.
We are to believe at this point that Todd has been working at the call center for at least a few weeks, if not longer, and has become chummy with some of his employees. Last night, one of them, Asha (Rebecca Hazelwood), was convinced by the assistant manager, Rajiv (Rizwan Manji), to lie to get Todd out of the office. Rajiv, we learned as the episode progressed, wanted Todd out of the way so that he could pretend to be the manager in front of his would-be father-in-law.
The entire idea falls down because with what we know of the characters before last night there is no way that had he known about Rajiv’s wanting to pretend to be manager in advance, Todd wouldn’t have gone along with it. Plus, there’s no way that Asha wouldn’t have known that Todd would absolutely have agreed. Which is all to say that Asha’s internal motivation for lying was neither explored nor explained, we were just left to accept it and watch the plot progress.
That is, however, not the sort of thing I’m able to simply accept.
I can, off the top of my head, come up with several different ways in which Rajiv could have proceeded about his plan to lie to his would-be father-in-law without Asha’s lying to Todd. The potential scenarios include any number of ways for Rajiv to be caught in his lie, again with the characters remaining true to themselves.
Why then proceed with the lie to Todd? Why have Asha act out of character? Well, there I can only come up with one answer and that is because it allowed a joke about Indian culture to take place and at the same time make fun of American stupidity.
The lie Asha and Rajiv told Todd was that it was a holiday in India, Vindaloo Day, where people threw spices at each other and so everyone would be taking the afternoon off. I don’t even want to get into the lack of realism of the call center being closed in the middle of the day for a holiday when obviously the people calling in won’t stop calling due to a holiday they don’t know about because it brings into question so many of the other established facts of the series that you have to overlook in order to be able to watch an episode without pulling out your hair. It was just an unfunny joke created so that Todd could look dumb throwing spices at people, Indian culture mildly jabbed, and Americans called stupid.
Or, in other woods, Asha acted out of character for no good reason whatsoever.
To this point I have only laughed at one joke in Outsourced but I’m keeping it on my TiVo for another few weeks. I just hope that in that time they’re able to show that they can deliver characters who are true to themselves, an actual role for Pippa Black beyond simply existing to come on to Todd once every couple of weeks, and do more than take cheap shots at Indian culture and American stupidity.
We’ll see what happens.