Thursday, September 23, 2010

NBC Fall Pilot Review: Outsourced - Premieres September 23; WGN America Pulls Entourage, Curb from Primetime

Outsourced

Outsourced - Thursdays 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 9:30PM ET/PT

Outsourced is NBC's latest "clash of the cultures" sitcom to explore how one person functions when being suddenly immersed in an unfamiliar environment. Todd Dempsey (Ben Rappaport) returns from his vacation to his office at Mid America Novelties to find that the call center his workplace has been "right-sized" in order to save the company every penny possible. Everybody has been fired, and their jobs have been replaced by employees in Mumbai, India. Well, not exactly everybody has been fired. Todd still has a job with Mid America Novelties, but now he is the lone American manager of the call center in India. But that is just the beginning of the story. Upon Todd's arrival into India, he discovers that his job is going to be much more difficult than anticipated when he finds that his employees are not exactly top-notch.

Cast Details:

* Ben Rappaport as Todd Dempsey
* Rizwan Manji as Rajiiv Gidwani
* Sacha Dhawan as Manmeet
* Rebecca Hazlewood as Asha
* Parvesh Cheena as Gupta
* Anisha Nagarajan as Madhuri
* Diedrich Bader as Charlie Davies
* Pippa Black as Tonya

Ben Rappaport (Todd) makes his television debut in his starring role in the series. A recent graduate of the Julliard School, he received the Drama Division's highest honor, the Michel and Suria Saint-Denis Prize. His credits include several Julliard performances and work with Roundabout, Ars Nova, Naked Angels, Irish Rep., The Actors Studio, and New Dramatists.

Rizwan Manji (Rajiiv) has many credits from guest starring roles in several series, including Glee, FlashForward, 24, Better Off Ted, Medium, How I Met Your Mother, and Without a Trace, among several other series. His movie credits include Charlie Wilson's War and Transformers.

Manchester-born Sacha Dhawan (Manmeet) has many credits to his name in the United Kingdom, but is new to American audiences. He is an accomplished tap-dancer who has previously appeared in British series such as Out of Sight and The Last Train.

Parvesh Cheene (Gupta) made his acting debut as Samir in the movie Barbershop and sequel Barbershop 2. He has many television credits in guest starring roles, including ER, The OC, Brothers & Sisters, and 'Til Death.

Diedrich Bader (Charlie) has many credits from films including EuroTrip, Napoleon Dynamite, Ice Age, Office Space, and more. Additionally, he has done many cartoon voices (including Batman) and also played Oswald Lee Harvey on the long-running series The Drew Carey Show.

Pilot Plot:

#1 "Pilot" (Airs September 23, 2010) - Directed by Ken Kwapis
In the pilot, Todd Dempsey returns from his vacation at Mid America Novelties to find that the call-center that he has been hired to manage in Kansas City is gone, outsourced to Mumbai, India. Upon arriving in India, he meets his assistant manager, Rajiiv (Rizwan Manji), who already has his eyes on Todd's job, in anticipating that Todd won't last long in India. Once Todd arrives in the office, he finds that his new employees are less-than-stellar, including Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan), the call-center employee with no self-confidence, Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood), who seems to be the most in-touch with American culture (but still struggles), Gupta (Parvesh Cheena), the obnoxious co-worker, and Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan), who is deeply intrigued by Todd's explanation of American lifestyle. He also meets Charlie Davies (Diedrich Bader), who works for All American Hunter and knows what the future holds for Todd, and Tanya (Pippa Black), a young Australian woman who quickly attracts Todd's attention.

Everything appears to be a disaster at first, but as the episode progresses, the call-center employees are slowly becoming interested in the products they are selling and in American culture, even if their understanding of American culture is fatally flawed. Will they make the adjustment before Todd loses his sanity?

Analysis:

The pilot was decent, but leaves some holes that need to be filled. In particular, it felt as if too much of the attention focused on Todd's adjustment to his new job. While it makes sense that the character should be the central character of the series, the other characters often seemed to just be an afterthought and seemed to have two-dimensional personalities. The series is going to need to have some complicated plots focusing on multiple characters and bring some depth into their distinct personalities. In particular, I'm hoping to see some power struggles between Todd and Rajiiv, similar to the power struggles between Michael and Dwight on The Office.

Some of the funniest moments in the pilot came from the cultural misunderstandings of the employees in India, but the problem with this is that the call-center employees are not the "fish out of water" in the series, and instead, that role belongs to Todd. He seems to adapt to the culture a little too easily in the pilot, and the series could certainly benefit if his character was more naive about the culture in India. Still, it is important for the series to continue to include the difficulties that the employees have adapating to American culture, as they are working with American customers. There were certainly many funny elements in the pilot, but there weren't enough (if any at all) laughs regarding Todd's character.

The series has a pretty decent cast, with each cast member fitting into the profile of the character he or she is playing. One of the things that I feared before seeing the pilot is that the series would stereotype all of the Indian characters as being the same, but they actually successfully managed to create a dynamic cast with each having a distinctive personality, even if the pilot episode did not present an adequate opportunity to present those personalities. Even though the cast is made up almost entirely of unknown actors, all of them seem to be prepared to take upon their roles and have great potential for the series.

Conclusion:

All in all, this isn't a bad show, although the pilot could have been better. The series probably wouldn't have a chance on another network, but it may benefit from being paired with The Office on NBC's Thursday night lineup. Still, NBC has the series Parks and Recreation returning later in the season, and something will have to be bumped to make room for it--and this series seems to be a prime candidate for that.

The success or failure of the series will depend upon whether or not people tune in, and the somewhat weak pilot may affect that significantly. Still, the pilot isn't a total disaster, and I'm hoping that the creative staff was really intending to JUST introduce us to the cast instead of creating a complex plot involving the characters (as there really wasn't any complex plot at all). The concept for the series is one that I hope to see work out for the best, and I think that with some improvements, it may attract some fans. It won't be a huge hit for NBC, for sure, but it has potential to be a stable part of the lineup.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.5/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 09/23/10

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, September 23 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Outsourced Photo Gallery

    Preview:



  • So, that's a wrap for the new sitcom pilot reviews. Better With You and Raising Hope were the pilots we liked best, while Outsourced was the lowest rated for us. Stay tuned later this season for more pilot reviews which includes Matthew Perry's Mr. Sunshine for ABC.


    Moving on to news, WGN America will make some schedule changes to its primetime/late night line-up beginning on Monday (Sept. 27). It looks like Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm didn't do well in primetime in the ratings and they will be moved to late nights only. Starting Monday, they will now air in the 1am ET hour leading into the already scheduled late night airings at 2am ET. Replacing them in primetime will be two episodes of How I Met Your Mother in the 9pm ET hour, as that series will no longer airing in the 11pm ET hour, with Scrubs returning to that hour now. Replacing Scrubs at midnight ET will be South Park, which moves up an hour (from 1am ET). One note, How I Met You Mother won't air in the 9pm hour on Mondays, because of CBS network obligations, so Old Christine will air in the 9pm ET hour then, in addition to its regular weekdays 8pm ET hour. Old Christine will not air now in the 7pm hour on Fridays, so Dharma & Greg is all five days now in the 7pm ET hour. The 9pm move is better news for Mother, as it was airing at 11pm where Lifetime also airs it. Now you don't have to choose what network you want to watch it at 11pm.
    There are some schedule changes to weekends, too. Saturdays will also see changes in primetime and late night. Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm will be replaced on Saturdays at 9pm ET also, this time by America's Funniest Home Videos. After the news at 10pm ET, How I Met Your Mother remains in the 11pm hour on Saturdays, so it will air Tues-Fri at 9pm and Saturdays at 11pm. But the Saturday late night line-up has changed, with South Park moved up to 12am ET instead of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Instead Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm will now air in the 1am ET hour and another hour at 2am ET. So, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm airs Mon-Sat in the 1am and 2am ET hours now. Another hour of South Park bookends Saturdays at 3am ET.
    On Sundays, Just Shoot Me! will now air on the schedule after all, airing in the Sundays at 6pm ET hour after Scrubs. Dharma & Greg is no longer planned in this hour now on Sundays. Be on the look out for Just Shoot Me! airing as a filler as well (such as when there is no WGN News at 10pm ET).
    View the FULL and updated WGN America Fall 2010 schedule. And stay tuned for any special stunts and marathon that WGN America always plans for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.


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