Raise your hand if, like me, you're already dreading NBC's Outsourced. Trailers for the new sitcom—which was announced during the Upfronts in May and premieres in the network's Thursday-night comedy lineup this fall—have been airing in heavy rotation this summer, and if they've got you squirming on your sofa, you're not alone. The show is pretty racist.
NBC has made plenty of boneheaded decisions in the past, but I still never expected them to stoop this low. The network has basically pigeonholed a bunch of possibly talented actors into a stale "Indian nerd" stereotype, by attempting to squeeze laughs out of ignorant jabs at Indian culture. The show's white main character, Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) is the primary deliverer of these jabs, which he gets to dish out without receiving any in return. And, from the looks of the preview, he scores with the only other white girl in the cast.
Political correctness aside, haven't we already exhausted the whole jokes-about-Indian-people thing? They (the jokes, I mean) may have been mildly funny once, but they certainly aren't now. Indian-Canadian comedian Russell Peters hit the nail on the head when he pointed out during his standup routine that "Indian people are fully aware of what their accent sounds like" and scolded, "Don't think for one minute that we don't know that you're mocking us when we're not around."
Peters has it right. In his comedy, everyone is target—but on Outsourced, the only joke about white people consists of an Indian guy doing an impression of someone from the American South. And suddenly, we're back in "Indian nerd with funny accent" territory.
It's not that racist humor doesn't already exist on TV. Many current shows that pre-date Outsourced get away with it all the time—and, ironically, NBC airs two of the big ones. The Office's humor originated in Michael Scott's (Steve Carell) unintentional, ignorant, and insulting comments about the gender, age, and race of his employees. Community regularly pokes fun at each member of its diverse cast and in its first season made a running joke out of the line, "That's racist!" And over on FX, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia gets its laughs from the absurdly racist, sexist, and generally offensive actions of its main characters.
But all three shows get their laughs from culturally-ignorant buffoon characters—The Office's Michael, Community's Pierce (Chevy Chase), Sunny's Mac (Rob McElhenney)—rather than from the targets of the characters' jokes. in contrast, Outsourced gives me this sinking feeling that we're supposed to crack up watching an Indian girl bumble through Run DMC's "It's Tricky," or chuckle as a white guy complains about the spiciness of curry. Shame on you, NBC, for cheapening—hell, outsourcing—your own once-brilliant brand of comedy. Unless you re-vamp Outsource, I'm not tuning in.