The pilot episode of NBC’s new comedy Outsourced was okay. Heavy on the clichés, sure, but funny and with loads of potential. Despite the outcry and accusations of racism and being offensive, I felt like the series had plenty of potential and should be given just as much of a chance as was given to other NBC comedy slow starters like Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock.
Community was hilarious out of the gate. I loved the The Office from the first episode, but many criticized it (heavily) for being a cheap version of the brilliant UK original until it came into its own a season later. 30 Rock was a middling, but good comedy when it first started and grew from there, but it got some help from Studio 60 for proving a behind the scenes series about a sketch show works better as a comedy. And Parks & Recreation started off as a lame Office retread. An uninspired first season that blossomed into an excellent 2nd season.
So why the quick, snap and sometimes baseless judgment on Outsourced. Sure the pilot wasn’t spectacular, but one could easily see potential in the premise. And thankfully, this week’s 2nd episode delivered. For example, this week’s cold open was funnier than the entire pilot episode.
I’d say that was a good sign of things to come. And the rest of the episode helped the series get itself on the right track.
The pilot was all set-up (and admittedly plenty of clichés), but this week was more relaxed. The set-up is out of the way, everyone is ready to be more relaxed and comfortable (relatively speaking).
This week’s episode focused on Todd’s boss in Kansas telling him to fire one of the workers because sales are low. Todd, aside from not having fired anyone before, doesn’t want to mess up the goodwill and high morale they’ve already built up, so he plans on helping the person with the lowest sales improve to make up the lost revenue so he won’t have to fire anyone.
Todd finds out it is the foreign-woman loving Manmeet who’s been flirting with the women on the phone instead of taking any orders. Todd gives him a small lecture then sits down with him through the night to actually help Manmeet make a sales record by selling to his now ex-girlfriends.
And in the middle of the borderline-dramatic/motivational moments between Todd and Manmeet, there’s the guaranteed smile from soft-spoken Madhuri, the funny, in both the cringe-worthy and non-cringe-worthy way, from Gupta, the one-liners from Rajiv, and the sweet, inklings of romance with Asha. That’s a pretty complete show right there.
The pilot and the 2nd episode could not be more different or at least distinct. The pilot seemed to aim for obvious laughs, one joke after the other. The 2nd episode though relied on plenty of subtle comedy, having things develop over the course of the episode. There were certainly seeds being planted for long term stories, but the self-contained stories of this episode all reached a satisfying conclusion at the end.
Also continued is the culture clash and cultural learnings. Slowly, but surely, both Todd the All-American guy and the Indian call center agents are learning about each other’s cultures and habits, and understanding them.
The episode was not laugh out loud funny, hilarious, uproarious laughter-inducing, but it was fun and surprisingly cute and sweet. I don’t think a smile left my face the entire episode. It would be easy to go for the laughs every other minute (which they did in the pilot), but they didn’t in this episode and it worked.
It is odd to say a comedy has so many threads running through it, but with Outsourced, it’s true. They delivered a helluva lot more this week than they did in the pilot. And it seems they’ll be doing a focus-ep sort of format which I would love. Each episode focusing on Todd interacting specifically with one of his employees like he did in this episode with Manmeet.
Outsourced is definitely an ensemble and it has a solid cast. The writing was incredibly improved and potential is still there. They’ve got plenty of room to improve and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what else they can do.