Ken Kwapis, the creator of "Outsourced," has directed the pilot episodes of "The Office," "The Larry Sanders Show," and "The Bernie Mac Show."
"Outsourced" is nothing like any of those shows.
The new NBC sitcom is based on a 2006 movie of the same name, and takes place overseas at a call center in India. The action begins just after an American novelty company shuts down their entire call center and sends those jobs overseas -- and with those jobs, an fresh-faced caucasian American manager to train and run the team.
The early buzz about the show from critics has been that it's borderline racist. Kwapis counters that argument by pointing out that a third of the show's writers are of Indian descent and that Indian-American focus groups love it. I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say it's racist -- maybe it is and maybe it isn't -- but I certainly do not think it's very flattering to Indians.
But perhaps the biggest sin of all, especially for a sitcom, is that it's just not funny.
Virtually all the jokes in the pilot come from making the Indian workers look ridiculous. They lay the groundwork for this early on by having two American managers discuss the fact that the novelty call center workers are the "B Team" and not as smart as the tech savvy genius Indians who work for the computer company call centers. The pilot also spends plenty of time playing up or playing off of Indian stereotypes. There are jokes about Indian headdress, Indian names, Indian food causing gastrointestinal distress, Indian attitudes toward women and marriage, and of course, cows. And that might be fine if the jokes were funny.
You're welcome to judge for yourself, though. There are plenty of successful sitcoms on the air that I don't find funny ("Two and a Half Men"), and maybe this is just one of them.
"Outsourced" debuts Thursday night on NBC at 9:30pm.