Thursday, February 10, 2011

Outsourced/NBC (2010)

Being the first American sitcom with a predominantly Indian cast was not going to be an easy thing to pull off and judging from the first episode it looked like 'Outsourced' would be an epic fail. Like most Indian people here, I tuned in and for the first few episodes I was mostly... indifferent. Granted, it was nice to have a show I could call my own considering the only two other prominent Indian figures on TV were Apu from 'The Simpsons' (voiced by Hank Azaria!) and Raj from 'The Big Bang Theory' (playing the stereotypical Indian physics whiz). But even before 'Outsourced' had even aired a single episode, it was derided by nearly every (American) reviewer for being "racist" and "trite". Although I have never noticed anything outwardly racist (the name Manmeet is amusing even if you are an Indian that grew up here), early on the show just wasn't that funny. But then an interesting thing happened - the show found it's sweet/quirky groove, the characters came into their own and 'Outsourced' quickly became a favorite of mine. Preview below

When 'Good Times' came out in 1974 it received much of the same criticism that is being levied at 'Outsourced' today but then as now, the sentiment of the people it portrayed was basically the same - it may not be perfect but at least it's a start. The first few episodes of 'Outsourced' did get a little too much into the whole fish out of water "wow your culture is SO weird" but you know what? The two cultures are very different and while that may be glaringly obvious to me it may not be to others. The show never strays too far from it's comedic roots but over the past few weeks has given the viewers short but insightful introductions to: Diwali, arranged marriages, Indian food, paan, Bollywood, socially inappropriate touching, trains and Indian vs American mentality when it comes to work. The employees in 'Outsourced' genuinely love their jobs, unlike the employees at my other Thursday night TV staple 'The Office'. And at the end of the day their American boss (Todd) learns something about India and his employees learn something about America. Nothing earth shattering but quite endearing nonetheless...

But as they say, the devil is in the details and the fact that they get the music just right in all the episodes showed me that they really are putting some time and effort on the show. A variety of great Bollywood songs are playing in the background on nearly every street scene and in the latest episode on board a train Chaiyya Chaiyya is playing in the background followed immediately by The Monkees song Last Train to Clarksville. Not only that but the audience is introduced to the concept of 'Ladies Only' train cars, professional gropers and a little Hindi thrown in just for authenticity. Below is the song for the day and represents the SECOND time a song by my favorite singer was used in an American sitcom. Considering Kishore Kumar passed away nearly 25 years ago, it's safe to say his legacy is alive and well in Bollywood as well as in Hollywood. Below you will find the clip in which 'Gupta' is having a Bollywood daydream to Bachna Ae Haseeno sung by the master himself originally from the movie 'Hum Kisise Kum Naheen'.