Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Friday, October 29, 2010

NBC's Thursday Night Line-up POWER RANKINGS: Week 6

This Week: Community>The Office>Outsourced

Let's go to the big board...

1) Community
2) 30 Rock
3) The Office
4) Outsourced

With 30 Rock getting bumped by Shrek this week, I decided it was time to watch Outsourced, so a potential reader of mine would not have to (you’re welcome, potential reader turned actualized reader). I am completely caught up on the season and I want to issue my blog’s second ever retraction. I wrote that Outsourced was “racist” and “hack” and now, after watching six episodes, I can say with confidence it is at least not racist.

I have lived bad television free since the very welcomed cancellation of Heroes. In the 90’s, however, I seemed drawn to those worthless sitcoms that surrounded Seinfeld. I loved Caroline in the City, Suddenly Susan, Boston Common, Veronica’s Closet, and the Breckin Meyer vehicle, Inside Schwartz. Outsourced fits perfectly into NBC’s long history of trying to throw crap into a normally stellar line-up with the hope of tricking the people at home into watching it by accident. Though unlike those other bad shows, Outsourced is said to be racist.

I would like to recount a situation from a show people do watch, 30 Rock:

Scenario: Liz complains to Jack that the writers are changing her door nameplate with comical ones. Jack proceeds to read a few out loud. Here is one such exchange

Jack: “Fart Barfunkel”
Liz: “Indian food”

This joke is not really racist and it is definitely not funny. This is the territory Outsourced lives and dies in. There are a lot of jokes about Indian food, which in actuality are bad poop jokes and not attempts to mock Indian culture. The show also tries (and fails) to find humor in the (boring) protagonist’s attempts to understand this kooky Indian workplace. This too feels less racist and more reminiscent of any fish out of water sitcom like Just Shoot Me, in which a serious journalist went to work for her Dad’s tawdry fashion magazine. In reality, Outsourced tends to comedically deal with race far less than the three shows sharing the line-up. The show actually takes the culture clash very seriously, as the protagonist spends a great deal of each episode trying in earnest to learn from his new cohorts and vice versa.

Though for the most part the show fails with these moments as well, there is a glimmer of hope in the current romantic arc. The American boss, played by the exceedingly wet-blanketesque Ben Rappaport, has fallen for one of his beautiful employees, but the beautiful employee cannot date her boss because (here’s the twist) she is supposed to have an arranged marriage. Will-they-won’t-they is a cliché’s cliché, yet each episode I find myself somewhat intrigued, which is saying a lot for such an awful show. This is mostly due to the hopefully breakout star of the show Rebecca Hazlewood, who perfectly plays the culturally and emotionally conflicted Asha. She is able to bring pathos to a show completely void of heart and intelligence. If given time to properly develop, Outsourced might effectively subvert a classic sitcom scenario.

Alas, The show will likely/hopefully get canceled before this could happen*. Outsourced might not actually be racist but it is still bad – very bad. Novelty items (!!!!!) are the shows primary source of comedy, which is even less funny that it sounds (and it sounds super unfunny). Novelty items are lower than the lowest of brows – they make Larry the Cable Guy seem like Mark Twain. I would take an Indian food poop joke over a fake dog poop “joke” any day.

Drawing the racist line in the comedy sand is impossible to a point where its discussion is hack in of itself. NBC’s Thursday night is the most diverse primetime line-up in the history of basic cable regardless of Outsourced, and with the eventually return of Parks & Recreation I am confident there will be two hours of comedy a week that deftly and, more importantly, hilariously navigates (post) racial America.

To the victor goes the spoils...

Quite possibly the funniest NBC Thursday Night related clip this week comes from the cast of Parks & Recreation announcing that next season will be in IMAX 3-D.

*I quote an AV Club recap that summarizes a likely reason for why Outsourced is here in the first place: "The hot rumor for a while was that NBC had picked a terrible show to go after The Office so it could slip Parks and Rec (returning at midseason) the post-Office slot without terribly antagonizing the producers of Community or 30 Rock."

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