NBC's 'Outsourced' through the eyes of an Indian-American woman: Well, it didn't quite make me cry

Outsourced-show-pilotImage Credit: Harper Smith/NBCI didn’t have high expectations going into Outsourced, I’ll admit, based on the universally tepid reaction of critics and the fact that a friend of mine who is brown like me, with parents who came from India like mine, said her cousin cried after watching the promo. But I tried to clear all that from my mind as I sat down to watch the pilot episode last night.

And, score a point (or maybe half a point?) for Outsourced, no tears fell from my eyes as I watched the one-dimensional quirks play out: the Indian men reduced to fetishizing sexual intimacy (“I like redheads. And blondes…and dark-haired women,” declared Sacha Dewan’s desperate Manmeet, who lives, predictably, with his parents); the sari-clad Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan) who can’t or won’t speak above a whisper due to a ruinous Eastern-style shyness; Todd (Ben Rappaport), who is American, and therefore looser in all things — love, work, family, etc. Nope, I didn’t cry exactly, but I definitely frowned. My eyebrows wrinkled. The show struck me as more irritatingly lazy than out-of-touch, considering most of the bits that could be labeled offensive were also just unfunny.

The only character who wasn’t plagued by stock quirks was (surprisingly) the hammiest: Gupta, played by Parvesh Cheena, whose runaway dialogue about his hermaphrodite aunt verged on comedy (plus he used the word “Aunty,” a nice touch). There were other little moments that struck me as realistic — like Manmeet humming “Tujhe Dekha To yeh Jaana Sanam,” a popular Bollywood song from the early ’90s, in the break room. But then he mispronounced the Hindu epic, Ramayana (“R as in Ramayana”), and any verisimilitude flew out the window.

What did you think? Did you see potential in the Outsourced pilot? Is the name Manmeet actually hilarious? Were you laughing at Todd as he laughed at Manmeet, in a meta, post-racial sort of way?! Comments below, please!

Comments (104 total) Add your comment
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  • kperry

    I purposely chose not to watch this because I was certain it would border on racism.

    • KAZ Vorpal

      Ignorance is bliss. Not watching the show because you’re sure it’s racist is, by definition, the most absolute form of prejudice.

  • jmo

    I really liked the movie but I wasn’t impressed with the pilot. I want it to work because I thought the spirit of the movie of that fact that first impressions to not sum up a person, regardless of where they come from. I hope the series will to the same. If Miss Rao reads this comment, what did you think of the movie (if you saw it)?

    • jmo

      Sorry “was the fact” not “of the fact”…

  • Keith

    I’m not Indian. But I’ll take your word for it and skip it. :) sounds like I’m not missing much.

  • Matt

    i didn’t necessarily find it offensive, but just extremely lazy. pretty much every joke revolved around every indian stereotype (if you eat indian food, you get diarrhea for 5 days! cows are everywhere!)

    i normally wouldn’t care, except this show is keeping the vastly superior parks and recreation off the air. such a slap in the face considering parks rushed production on season 3 so they’d have episodes ready for the fall in order to deal with amy poehler’s pregnancy

    • Amelia

      Agreed. I am really going to miss P&R this fall.

    • Karate Pants

      Totally. Vomit and poop jokes are a waste of a fabulous time slot. That mess was not in the same class as Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, and The Office.

    • fussbucket

      agreed as well. the disrespect to P&R by NBC is shameful.

  • John

    So how is one suppose to pronounce Ramayana?

    • oodoodanoo

      ruh-MY-uhnuh

    • ravi

      ra-maa-yann

      The “A” at the end of most Indian words & names is silent.

      • Jax

        Her-MY-oh-nee

      • Govind

        The “a” is silent only if you are from Hindi speaking (or Sanskrit based language speaking) areas. In Kerala and Tamilnadu it is really Raamaayanam and usually in English the final “a” is pronounced.
        Most Indians if they are speaking English would really say Raamaayana, i.e. both the first 2 syllables are elongated like the “a” sound in words like gardener or palm.

      • tj

        Actually the “a” at the end is pronounced in Sanskrit. Hindi has an ambiguity since Hindi has no distinction between short na and long naa. In the southern languages, it is different – Telugu it is called “raamaayaNamu” (using Rice University’s transliteration scheme), where as in malayaaLam and taamiL it would be as Givind says.

      • topazbean

        Guys – just to say, this is actually a really interesting and intelligent conversation about language being carried out in the EW comments section. I just felt this was worth highlighting purely for the novelty value…

      • raviiswrong

        of course you must be from the North, to always omit the a from the end of Ramayana! It IS pronounced, and that is the true Sanskrit form of the word. HMPH.

  • Stormy

    I just didn’t find it very funny. Having spent a good deal of time in the U.K., I’m well acquainted with people of Indian origin and find them charming and bright. This show is just doomed to fail. They should take a hint from Freddie on Rules of Engagement.

    • ba’al

      I guess you do not work in the hotel business-I find them rude, and if you are a woman forget it.
      IMO

      • slartibartfast

        You sound like you deserve the treatment you get.

      • topazbean

        The fact is, in general Indian people are neither charming and bright nor rude. They are just people, with no widely defined personality traits, a concept that this show seemed largely incapable of grasping.

    • Annie

      My husband travels regularly to Tamil Nadu in Southern India. We have grown to love that region. I had to turn the channel after the first 10 minutes as it was so inappropriately scripted. And how stereotypical the Indian characters were for a mere “laugh” — that we did not find funny. One friend of ours loved this show — but he has never been to India — and he is an idiot. This show needs to be cancelled. I won’t watch it.

  • John

    I think people are too quick to claim “RACIST!” The show, if anything, made Americans the butts of the jokes. Having worked with a lot of Indians (in Computer Science), I saw a lot of commonalities with the characters, and enjoyed that quite a bit.

    • RK

      Stereotype!

      • FL

        what you label a “stereotype”, others call cultural traits..

        there’s no reason to shy away from distinct attributes of different cultures, as long as you don’t use them to demean others.

    • Shvetha

      Yeah i agree with you. I liked it too…and instead of brooding over racism, just relax and enjoy teh comedy. I am looking forward to further episodes.

      • pavan

        You ar eone of the few unique people to find it funny.

    • Shasta

      Most people complaining didn’t even watch the show. I think it (and the characters) have room to grow. “Community” was kinda lame at first, too.

    • topazbean

      Yeah, well, people always said the women in Benny Hill always made the men look stupid, so it wasn’t sexist. But the fact is that the women on the show served no other purpose than to run around in bikinis. It doesn’t matter how stupid the Americans look if all the Indian characters get to do on the show is pander to cultural stereotypes.

      And also, if you’re looking for “cultural traits” watch the Kumars at No. 42. A British comedy about a British-Asian family written by Asian comedy writers and actors and clearly written for other British-Asians to enjoy with an understanding of how Indian families had made a life for themselves in the UK, but also with characters that ANY person might recognise in their own family.

      • veggiedude

        Outsourced had five writers of Indian descent. I’ve watched ‘Kumars’ and ‘Goodness gracious me’ and I rank Outsourced up there as being just as funny and relevant.

  • TQB

    Thank you for the viewpoint. We should all be more offended by unfunny TV offerings!

  • noelle

    If you can make something genuinely funny, you can get away with anything. But the “Oursourced” writers seem to have forgotten the funny, as every single review I’ve read suggests.

  • Jeremiah

    Pilots are alaways hard to judge, last year I wasn’t impressed by Community but by episode 5 I was hooked. However I’m not sure that I’m willing to give Outsourced a chance, besides being set in India it feels pretty generic.

    • Cris

      A fair comment. After all, it took until season 2 until Parks and Rec got really good.
      That said, I found Outsourced pretty awful. Not offensive, just not funny in the least.

  • RK

    It was ok, but I think it was smart that the company made American novelty products, as a way to mock Americans as well.

  • Amy

    My fave was Gupta. Cheena stole the show. Loved him in Barbershop too.

    • S

      OH MY GOD. Cheena was EPIC. Manmeet wasn’t that bad, honestly, but I cringed when Todd made fun of him. Dude, his name isn’t “Man-meat.” It’s “Manmeet.” If you can’t say it right, that’s your problem.

      • Govind

        Just as all native English speakers get our PM’s name wrong. The “Man” in Manmohan is not pronounced like the word for a male but closer to a ‘u’ sound.
        “Mun” means mind/heart.

  • sassyfras

    It was incredibly lame.

  • Priya

    Unfunny, stupid, and boring. This show will just strenghten the current stereotyping for Indians as well as Americans.

  • Bernie Wilson

    I have worked a long side with Eastern Indians, and my impression of this show was really two fold: 1) it will be canceled, and 2) The only character in the show that, to me, represented today’s Indian, was the “Manager”…very competitive, looking for better opportunties, and he never once had a automated dog hump his leg.

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