Tuesday, June 28, 2011

‘Outsourced’: Universal hotline

(Published June 22, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


The weekly sitcom “Outsourced,” about an American heading a call center in India, regularly pokes fun at aspects of both countries’ cultures. But while the situations may inspire discussions on differences, the show also depicts universal similarities between people, their location and traditions notwithstanding.

The proverbial fish out of water, Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) must adapt to the changes that come with being transplanted to Mumbai. But the transition isn’t smooth, even when he thinks that he’s assimilated quite nicely.

Todd often has to explain to his employees the idea behind the gag and novelty items that they’re selling. He also had to contend with harassment complaints filed by his agents at one point, totally oblivious of his mistakes. The young boss and his mostly enthusiastic set of employees routinely question each other’s customs, but issues are often resolved by the end of the episode.

A few distinct agents are focused on: Manmeet (Sacha Dahwan), confident and overly friendly to female clients; Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan), timid but talented breadwinner of her family; Gupta (Parvesh Cheena), the outcast dreaming of Bollywood stardom; Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood), who has a crush on Todd but is focused on picking the proper suitor for her arranged marriage; and Rajiv (Rizwan Manji), the annoying assistant manager openly coveting Todd’s job.

“Outsourced” further illustrates the appeal of the underdog: Despite Todd’s success, he’s considered a failure by his dismissive father. Todd’s employees are sometimes picked on by elitist call center agents of another company in the same building. In the standout episode “Todd’s Holi War,” he leads his bullied team in outwitting and “outmuscling” their well-dressed tormentors during the “Holi” festival.

Newcomer Rappaport and the cast members form a tight ensemble, adding charm and freshness to the periodically campy but celebratory series.

“Outsourced” airs on Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. on 2nd Avenue, and on Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. on Universal.

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