Space Ramblings

NPR’s Stupid Outsourced Rant

It’s amazing reading articles from people who sit through dingy episode after episode of 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation, but treat watching Outsourced like a priest going to a whorehouse. They make a point of telling you how much they’re lowering themselves by even talking about it. The Onion’s piece was bad enough. NPR’s Marc Hirsh is even worse. The smugness just rolls off the page like sweat off a fat guy.

First a comparison of Outsourced to Doritos. We get it. You’re too good for junk food. Then the obligatory salaaming for 30 Rock. We’re get it, you’re elite. And then the stupid begins. I’m going to cut out most of it to get to the criticisms.

It depicts American culture in the stupidest possible terms… Outsourced’s Todd (the manager of the call center, played by Ben Rappaport) talks about these bits of useless crap as though they’re the basic currency of American culture, rather than silly items used for coarse humor. The show doesn’t say, “Yes, a bell that you ring to announce that you’re horny is dumb, but it makes people laugh, and that’s why we sell it.” It says, “The sex bell is one of the things that makes American great and free.” It’s presenting worthless marginalia as societal cornerstones.

Because… you know funny. Just like 30 Rock and The Office exaggerate for comedic effect. Or Stan on American Dad.

Presenting worthless marginalia as societal cornerstones? Way to channel your inner Armond White. Also why isn’t The Office about the quest for world peace. And why were Darren and Samantha so obsessed with advertising, instead of fighting for civil rights? Why?

A show where there’s a joke about gag gifts being the American way, now hates America or something. Thanks for the Glenn Beck analysis of a 3 second bit of a half hour comedy on the tail end of NBC’s schedule.

Indian culture is constantly viewed as though it’s in the wrong.

Okay so now Outsourced doesn’t just hate America, it hates India too! Except the writers are mostly Indian. And it’s a show about cultural misunderstandings viewed from both sides. The American and Indian characters are baffled by each other’s oddities.

In many episodes, Todd comes face to face with some aspect of Indian society that he doesn’t understand (such as arranged marriage and simple physical contact like shoulder-touching) and spends the rest of the episode trying to convince everyone else that the American way is better. What’s worse, he often succeeds… Essentially, the show’s main character thinks India would be a whole lot better if it were exactly like the United States, instead of, say, India.

This isn’t completely wrong, but it’s not really true either.

Todd is aggressively clueless, but he rarely convinces anyone that the American way is best. Shoulder touching is a custom that he freaks about and learns to avoid. Arranged marriage is questioned not just by Americans, but by Indians. But the American hook ups of Todd and then Mahnmeet are shown to be dead ends.

The show never comes down on either side. Instead it shows both sides learning about each other.

In fact, in one of the more curious developments around this show, I can tell you – purely anecdotally – the most ardent fans that I’ve found are people of Indian descent. (Yes, that’s written by a writer on the show, but she discusses this phenomenon anecdotally herself.) And it’s not simply a matter of “Yay, we’re on TV!” (For that, they’d simply have to turn to The Office, 30 Rock, The Good Wife, Parks And Recreation, The Big Bang Theory, etc.) The attitude seems to be that Indians are a self-deprecating bunch and that it’s silly to be offended even when the point seems to be that Indian culture is stupid/funny/wrong,

See this is why I hate white liberals. In one paragraph, Marc Hirsh manages to be more racist and clueless than the show he’s attacking.

Indians like Outsourced. Obviously they’re too filled with self-hate to know what’s good for them. They should go watch positive depictions of themselves on Big Bang Theory, where the Indian character is borderline psychotic, repressed, can’t talk to women and whose culture is used as a punch line every time. And whose land is mocked in almost every episode.

Please, why won’t those desis listen to Marc Hirsh. He knows what’s good for them.

It’s not a funny show.

It’s as funny as The Office or the rest of the bunch. The jokes come more from the character interplay, just like on the Office, than from classic setups and punchlines.

Where Outsourced goes wrong is in implicitly sympathizing with its main character. If Todd’s objectionable attitude dug him deeper and deeper, you’d have a show that had some of the same uncomfortable and/or dark humor of The Office or Arrested Development.

And why does a show have to be dark and uncomfortable? Not everything has to be cringe comedy. Since cringe comedy isn’t even very funny.

Also The Office sympathized with Michael way too much.

(Imagine if Arrested Development assumed that Gob was the hero.)

It would have been a much better show. Michael Bluth’s whining was constantly annoying. Tobias would have been better than Gob though.

Alternatively, if he was the one trying to adjust to his new surroundings (instead of trying to adjust his new surroundings to him), then you’d have a show maybe a little bit like Community, where he’s forced to be somewhere he doesn’t really want to be but has to make the most of it, even if it’s a struggle sometimes.

That’s something audiences can sympathize with, they’re not into watching Community either.

The writing is lazy and ham-handed. It uses every cheap trick that every bad sitcom has ever used. Right from the start, there might as well have been a giant flashing arrow over Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood) that read “THIS IS THE WOMAN THAT THE MAIN CHARACTER IS GOING TO FALL FOR, RIGHT HERE.”

Which is different from The Office how? Hey that Will Ferrell appearance last week was so nuanced. And Pam, who knew that was coming.

And would you believe that a character’s bachelor party results in his bride-to-be and her stern father walking in at the most compromising moment? It’s just so tiring. For me, that is. Clearly not for the writers.

Sure, I’m not one of those Doritos eating morons. I’m sophisticated. I like my comedy to be completely unpredictable. Like when Michael does something wacky every episode for seven years. Who can predict what he’ll do and that it will go wrong? No one! Absolutely no one.

And when Dwight shows up to work with a gun, can anyone predict that he’ll blow his manager position by discharging it in the office. No one. Because even though he’s gotten in trouble for using weapons in the office before and Chekov ‘s old gun adage remains, it’s fresh and original.

And yet, here I am. I’m so fascinated by how aggressively, angrily bad Outsourced was able to go that it’s mesmerizing in an utter-trainwreck sort of way. There’s not one thing about it that works, and yet, there it is, chugging along, with so many people involved in keeping it moving in the hopes that eventually something will spark. They’ve been basically pushing a dead car along the road, figuring that maybe if they pop the clutch just one more time, it’ll start up. And in the meantime, they’re killing themselves pushing.

Better known as 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Community. Hey if we talk up this crap some more, maybe somebody who doesn’t work in advertising in New York will finally tune in.

Prize for reading the comments where a few asians show up to defend the show, to be smugly told by the white NPR folks that they’re too stupid and ignorant to know what’s good for them.

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