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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Robert Borden; directed by Ken Kwapis; TRT: 23:35)
The network's description: ""Outsourced" is a comedy where the Midwest meets the exotic East in a hilarious culture clash. The series centers on the all-American company Mid America Novelties that sells whoopee cushions, foam fingers and wallets made of bacon -- and whose call center has suddenly been outsourced to India. Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport, off-Broadway's "The Gingerbread House") is the new company's manager who learns that he's being transferred to India to run the operation. Overwhelmed, Todd discovers that his new staff needs a crash course in all things American if they are to understand the U.S. product line and ramp up sales from halfway around the world.
But as strange as America seems to his eclectic sales team, Todd soon realizes that figuring out India will be more than a full-time job. Rizwan Manji ("Privileged"), Sacha Dhawan (BBC's "Five Days II"), Rebecca Hazlewood (BBC's "Doctors"), Parvesh Cheena ("Help Me Help You"), and Anisha Nagarajan (Broadway's "Bombay Dreams") also star as members of Dempsy's off-shore team; Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") and Jessica Gower (Network Ten's "The Secret Life of Us") additionally star."
What did they leave out? It's actually based on the 2006 film on the same name.
The plot in a nutshell: Having just completed his management training, Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) is surprised to find out his entire department at Mid America Novelties has been outsourced from Kansas City to India. Even worse, his boss (Matt Walsh) informs him he'll have to relocate as well if he wants to keep his job - one which is on the fast track for VP if he succeeds. And with that he's whisked away to the subcontinent where he's greeted by assistant manager Rajiiv Gidwani (Rizwan Manji), who despite his gracious demeanor is not-so-secretly hoping to replace him.
To that end Rajiiv has populated the company's call center with an assorted collection of misfits - mousey-voiced Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan), slightly-creepy Gupta (Parvesh Cheena), unfortunately-named Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan) and adorably-nice Asha (Rebecca Hazelwood) - all of whom are primed to fail. Todd however thinks he's found the root of their problems - they can't push products like mistletoe and deer heads that sing "Sweet Home Alabama" without getting to know their context in American culture.
And so he introduces them to the world of "Glengarry Glen Ross," Run DMC and the Pussycat Dolls, all in the hopes of raising their abilities to sell. Along the way Todd befriends the managers of two other call centers: Charlie (Diedrich Bader), a good ol' boy from All-American Hunter who has manages to have his American vices shipped to him, and Tonya (Jessica Gower), a stunning Aussie from Koala Airlines. Ultimately, India may turn out to be exactly where Todd belongs.
What works: It's always nice to see a show explore new territory which really hasn't been on American television before or in this case an entire country. Not surprisingly the show is at its best when it veers the furthest into said world: whether it be how cows are free to roam the streets due to their religious status or how in relationships, dating begins after you've promised to marry someone.
This mismatch of worlds makes the show feel like a 21st century version of "Gung Ho!," often to amusing results - whether it's after answering Asha's innocent question about what mistletoe is, how Todd is then forced to clarify why someone would buy a mistletoe belt; or Rajiiv's description of what "The Bad News Bears" is ("Sir, I would venture to say that they are bears who when they come into town, it is very bad news indeed"). Other bits like a Sikh employee who always storms out after spotting Todd are deliciously random, while the cast in general is full of wonderfully fresh faces.
What doesn't: The show occasionally gets a little eye-rolling, such as a running gag about how a certain selection from the cafeteria will give you bowel exploding diarrhea, while Todd's ethnocentric tendencies - for all the talk of teaching his Indian employees about American culture he never seems to take an interest in learning about their culture - can be off-putting. Thankfully the show's few rough edges are rounded off by the inherent charms listed above. All in all, it's easy to say...
The bottom line: ...NBC's Thursday lineup has a welcome addition.