I cannot even tell you how terrible Outsourced is. Despite my reservations, I felt it necessary for me to watch the first episode: I’ve been prematurely bashing it just because it took over Parks and Rec’s fall premiere slot, and although I feel the trailers were sufficiently off-putting, it does seem a little unfair to go around badmouthing something I’ve never even watched.
After watching the first episode of Outsourced, my primary concern now is that I did not voice my opinion vociferously enough. It manages to cross the barrier from being merely unfunny (admittedly, a cardinal sin for something that’s supposed to be a comedy), into being something that’s actively insulting. It’s like going through a checkout line at the grocery store, except when you hand the clerk your debit card, not only do you not get any food in return for your money, the clerk deducts $100 from your account and then punches you in the nose. In fact, in attempting to come up with an accurate portrayal of watching Outsourced, the best thing I could think of was my husband’s description of the experience of viewing Gone With The Wind, which he suggested was like “eating a candle that’s burning.” I suppose, however, that just illustrating my own reaction to the pilot is probably not enough to qualify this as a useful piece of writing, and so I turn now to why this show actually is so, so bad.
At best, Outsourced’s premise is ill advised. I’m not saying it would be impossible to make a funny show about an Indian call center for an American company, but the obstacles just seem so monumental as to bring the entire undertaking into question. Our protagonist (?) Todd is an attractive, white, all-American kinda guy who gets shipped off to India to manage the call center for the Mid American Novelties company, an organization that specializes in products like fake vomit, America’s #1 mugs, and, of course, Jingle Jugs, a set of women’s breasts mounted on a plaque that twitch in rhythm with Jingle Bells. This is the product Todd holds up in front of his call center and touts as the quintessential American product – sure, he says, no one needs it, but they can’t stop you from making it. The joke here is supposed to be “haha, the quintessential American product is a set of ridiculous novelty boobs that play Christmas carols,” and while that is a barrel of laughs, there are actually even less funny things going on underneath. As Todd holds the Jingle Jugs aloft, one of his employees instinctively reaches to make sure her sari is adequately covering her chest. So not only are Jingle Jugs funny, and the idea of them being an American product is funny, but the mere prospect of actual breasts is even funnier, and so is the idea that a woman would want to cover them up, particularly those crazy Indian women with their foreign ideas of modesty! Oh ho ho! What mirth!
Really, the whole thing is built to be as insulting as possible, and manages to enact the racism it supposedly mocks at every turn. One of the classic opening bits is Todd’s introduction to the Indian office, where he goes around asking his employee’s names, only to find each one more incomprehensible or silly than the next. Todd either can’t hear or can’t understand these characters’ names, except for one guy with the name Manmeet, which Todd of course finds hysterical. Not only is Todd exempt from learning his employee’s names (because of course, they are absurd!), the viewer is also granted this exemption. No need to learn details about these people, dear American audience! They’re just here for you to laugh at. You know what else is funny? Indian food. Also Indian accents, Indian ignorance of American customs, and Indian religions.
I do have to be fair, though, there is one thing about Outsourced that made me laugh. Right at the end of the episode, I realized that the cans of soda have been changed to a fake brand, and the props that look like cans of RC cola actually read “PC.” I’ll admit it. I snorted out loud.