"Outsourced" will premiere tonight in NBC's wildly popular Thursday night comedy block, and today critics can finally reveal their thoughts on the pilot episode they received weeks ago to review. The series, based on the 2006 movie of the same name, is set around Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) and his culture shock as he is transported to India to run the call center for a novelties company.
So far most reviews find it to be sub-par, relying too much on cheap puns and at times being almost demeaning toward Indians, with a few nods at its cheerfulness and comedic take on the modern economy. Here's round-up of what critics have said so far...
Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times somewhat praised it, saying the fact that it's neither "embarrassing nor deeply offensive" is a credit to the cast and the writers and that it's "actually quite charming" once it gets rolling. She also pointed out that it doesn't just parody Indian culture, but that it "mocks Todd's blithe, well-meaning ignorance as much as it lampoons Indians trying to sell catalog items like fake vomit and 'jiggle jugs.'"
Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly basically panned the show, and sarcastically suggested that it "one day may evolve into a sharp, irreverent satire about consumerism and prejudice that doesn't punt to cheap jokes about Indian names, Indian accents, and Indian food," and to "Call us when it gets there."
Robert Lloyd of The Los Angeles Times gave it a smiling review, calling it "the most deftly realized sitcom of the new season." He also said it has a "top-flight cast, characters who show you who they are rather than telling you, smart writing, sure rhythms and a cheerful attitude."
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David Hinckley of the New York Daily News said it "needs more work," saying it "aims at a very large target and doesn't quite score, though at times it comes close." Hinckley didn't find the cultural jokes offensive, and suggested that in time, "'Outsourced' may want to become an Indian cousin of 'Community,' with diverse off-center people whose eccentricities fuel jokes."
Glenn Garvin of The Miami Herald praised the 2006 film but panned the show, saying the Indian characters are all "dysfunctional weirdos, incapable of even simple social interactions," while the American characters are "brash louts who regard India as little more than a source of diarrhea and a captive audience for jingoist proselytization."
Erik Pedersen of The Hollywood Reporter might have summed it up best while still giving it the benefit of the doubt:
Insensitive during this generation's Hard Times? Possibly. An excuse to mock Indian people and culture? Could be. A spectacular risk for NBC, especially in the plum post-"Office" slot? Absolutely. [...] But for those with the grit to get past, or over, the premise and watch without prejudice, "Outsourced" is a chance to grin in the face of modern economic realities."