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"Outsourced" - The Worst New Show On TV?

Tom Dotan |
September 24, 2010 | 1:26 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The cast of "Outsourced" on NBC (Mitchell Haaseth/NBC)
The cast of "Outsourced" on NBC (Mitchell Haaseth/NBC)

Wait. We need some context here. Let’s back up.

Ed Wood is regularly anointed as the worst director of all time. His sci-fi B-movies of the 40s and 50s are almost precision-engineered to make nerds wearing their "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" tees collapse into giggle-fits of glee. In Wood’s films, the sets are cardboard cheap, the boom mics are nearly always in shots, and the plots are as ludicrous as they are serious in the minds of the terrible actors.

The magnum opus of Wood’s film career is “Plan 9 from Outer Space” which is the worst movie by the worst director, making a strong case for its being the worst movie of all time. But to achieve this superlative status, powers beyond the control of any one person must come into play.

For “Plan 9,” it came in the form of actor and seriously burnt out Dracula star, Bela Lugosi, who died midway through production—a bit of a problem for the movie when he was its star. But instead of reworking the plot or explaining away the death, Wood merely recast the role during filming. So for the remainder, we’re left with a man (apparently Wood’s wife’s chiropractor) covering his face with a cape to disguise the fact that he looked nothing like Lugosi.

The point is that a confluence of factors mixed with bad luck and bad taste need to come together to be a true worst.

Now what does this have to do with "Outsourced," NBC’s new sitcom, airing Thursdays, 9:30? Take a guess.

But before any titles are bestowed, it’s only fair to judge what the show is within its powers.

The premise revolves around Todd Dempsey (Ben Rappaport) whose entire office for a catalogue that sells novelty items is outsourced to India. In the opening scene he’s given an ultimatum: accept a promotion to vice-president and manage the new Indian offices or become unemployed.

Dempsey chooses the latter and the remainder of the show is an enlightening look at a young man in recession America who tries to match his still-ripe idealism with the attendant cruelties of an indifferent society.

Oops, wrong network. This is NBC. Dempsey chooses the former, and off we go to India to laugh at the country’s clothing, personalities, and food.  We’re hardly there for ten minutes before we get slapped with a fart and diarrhea joke.

For side characters there’s Rajiv (Rizwan Manji), the conniving assistant manager who wants to fire an employee because she’s from a lower caste, Manmeet (Sacha Dawan) a young man who obsesses over redheads and whose name is used for a cheap joke right-off-the-bat, and Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan) who speaks quietly.....which is funny?

Before you wonder if the show is somewhat bravely going to throw a mixed-race relationship into the mix, we’re quickly introduced to Tonya (Pippa Black). She works at another office in the building, and she’s white, so nobody starts to feel uncomfortable or anything.

It’s not that dealing frankly with race or the comedy of customs is not good fodder for a sitcom; "30 Rock," which precedes "Outsourced" on NBC, makes its living off the subtle racism of preconceived notions. But every topic the show touches, it approaches with the aggressive dumbness of a third grade class clown. Dumbness has its place too, but not if it isn’t funny.

There seems to be an effort to turn the camera back on the Americans in the show and laugh at their ignorance of the customs along with the customs themselves. But now the bar has been lowered and we’re all wallowing in the muck. While we’re down there, the jokes about sacred cows, religious headwear, and fat men dancing to the Pussycat Dolls fall flat.

All these elements are within "Outsourced’s" control and all of it makes it a very, very bad show. But like “Plan 9” an act of God (or NBC president Jeff Zucker) must be there to push it to that hallowed ground beyond bad.

For you see, to make a spot for this untouchable turdmuffin, NBC had to push its funniest comedy, "Parks & Recreation" to March—a move from which the brilliant, though low-rated show may never recover. This is unforgivable. To those who don’t watch "Park & Rec," this would be like if NBC pushed "Community" until March, a move from which the show may never recover. Now you see. 

It’s true that this scheduling issue is not the fault of "Outsourced" per se, but like the man holding up a cape to his face, it’s on the record and it gives the show the ultimate recognition.

"Outsourced" is the worst new show on television.

Reach reporter Tom Dotan here.



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