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Reader opinion: Debating NBC's polarizing program 'Outsourced'

Outsourced Geetika Tandon Lizardi's Op-Ed about NBC's "Outsourced," for which she is a writer, has remained one of the most viewed items on the Opinion pages since it published March 21. In the piece, Lizardi defended the television program, urging viewers not to be ashamed for liking the program. It's not racist, she argued. It's satire. She explains:

Last pilot season NBC made a crazy move. It green-lighted an unlikely new sitcom set in a Mumbai call center. "Outsourced" was the hippest thing to happen to South Asians in the United States since Madonna discovered henna. As a writer, I was thrilled to hear about the show, not only because I'm an American of Indian descent but because I recently lived in Mumbai, helping my husband run a call center. […]

In my time on the writing staff, I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the show, especially from members of the South Asian community. Positive comments on Twitter after the show airs heavily outnumber critical ones, and according to the New York Times, even an audience of call center workers in India loved the show.

What's odd, then, is the level of vitriol directed at us by some reviewers. They've called it "insulting and condescending," filled with "offensive stereotypes" and based on "obvious cultural ignorance" on the part of the writers. New fans of the show seem to feel the need to post and tweet apologies for liking it: "I'm sorry but I really love 'Outsourced' " or "I think 'Outsourced' is hilarious. Don't hate me."

Just as Lizardi said in her Op-Ed, the subject of "Outsourced" has been ripe for debate. Here's what a few of our readers had to say in our discussion board.

The audience isn’t smart enough to understand the joke

Outsourced and the Metro PCS commercials both use the Indian culture as the butt of their jokes. It is a mentality that we can laugh at them because they're different.

While I believe the writers and actors are talented and intelligent I doubt the viewing audience is. I question weather it is understood that the comedy feeds to create a negative stereotype of the Indian cultrue because we assume the audience IS intelligent when in fact they're not. […]

--Mark Graski

"Outsourced" isn't really about being able to laugh at ourselves

That's exactly the problem: this show isn't about being able to "laugh at ourselves", it's all about laughing at and propagating entrenched misconceptions about other races. Not content with race and sex jokes, the writers pull of a hat trick by trotting out, of all vile things, caste jokes. Stop, please, my sides hurt from all the laughter.

-- john.d.perkins

It's great to see America as viewed through another culture's eyes

I love 'Outsourced'. It's great to have a sitcom that's not based on the same tired formulas we see repeated over and over. And as a person who lived in a foreign country for a few years myself, I think culture shock / culture clash is an untapped goldmine for stories of both comedy and drama. America needs to realize that yes, there are different ways of living, and no it isn't racist to talk about them. […]

I love learning about bits of India through 'Outsourced'. And I love seeing America viewed through another culture's eyes. I really hope this show gets a second season.


"Outsourced" does for Indians what "The Cosby Show" did for African Americans

"Outsourced" is very funny. I think it does for Indians what "The Cosby Show" did for African-Americans and what "George Lopez" did for hispanics. As for whether it helps or hurts the outsourced cause, I think it's a wash. On one hand it reminds us of American jobs being lost to outsourcing, but on the other hand it puts a face to the outsourced employees. I personally am against outsourcing because I feel the money should stay here in the U.S. ("Outsourced" has not changed my view on this issue.) I still think the show is very funny. My whole family watches it every week.


 It’s an offensive show full of stereotypes

As an American of Indian descent, I and my wife were horrified at the insult- and stereotype-laden couple of episodes we saw, never to tune in again. At a subsequent party of Indians Americans, both those born here in America and in India, the topic of your TV show came up and the verdict was unanimous: this was an incredibly offensive show, contemptuous of Indians. […]

Shame on you, as a self-proclaimed American of Indian origin, for writing such despicable stories. You do not speak for us Indians. If the producers think that this is a good excuse for producing such a racist show, they should think again. […]


Let's admit that there are things about Indian culture that are funny

I'm of Indian descent and I find the show very funny. My wife and I look forward to it every week. I think the Indians upset about this show need to get a grip. They probably are the same ones complaining about Slumdog Millionaire. I enjoyed that as well. Let's be honest and admit that there are things about Indian culture that are funny! And really this show is about the cultural differences and how there are clashes sometimes. Again, it can be funny!

Hey, John D. Perkins! Are you telling me you haven't come across any white Americans who couldn't handle Indian food? I find them all the time and I live in the big city. This character was from Kansas City. It's quite possible he wasn't familiar with Indian food. And, yes, there are still some people concerned about castes and there are arranged marriages over there.

Hey, Ranibee! Cows do walk around large Indian cities. I've seen them myself. I have a photo of a cow in the median of a busy road. And the whoopie cushion, fake vomit stuff is because the company in the show is a NOVELTY company. And there are definitely cultural differences between western humor and Indian humor which is ripe for exploration.



'Brady Bunch' diplomacy

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Sacha Dhawan as Manmeet on "Outsourced." Credit: Chris Haston / NBC


Comments () | Archives (15)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mark Graski

To clarify the point that I was trying to express it is that the audience believes the fiction of television is reality. They perceive television as fact even comedy.

When society is so easily influenced

Mark Graski

To clarify the point that I was trying to express is that the audience believes the fiction of television to be reality. They percieve television as fact even comedy.

When society is so easily influenced the networks have a greater responsibility. Is this too politically correct?. The question is what society do you want to live in?.


I think the main reason its ratings have dropped is because of the time-slot. It's a great show, but NBC did a dumb move by making Parks and Recreation (one of their best shows last season) a mid-season replacement. This is what turned me off Outsourced and has tainted my viewing of the show. From what I've watched, this show does have its moments and I would like to see this show be given a better time-slot. Perhaps move Outsourced and new risky comedy pilots to Tuesday?

Blame NBC, not the viewers. I think that's the main problem.


I think we should outsource CEO jobs. That will save a lot of bucks.

matthew brown

I like the show and have seen all 18... people think way to much, just laugh that's what it is all about.. it's not supposed to be taken seriously, and i've talked to people with Indian ascent and they have no problem with the show and I am an white American who has no problem with there joke's... they make fun of America and India is it really that big of a deal, no, all the people who complain and read to much into make it a big deal


"Outsourced" isn't racist. It's mediocre. I had very high hopes for this show at the beginning because I am a huge fan of the movie. I saw the pilot and was extremely disappointed (the jokes were juvenile, the characters only slightly likable)-- but I kept on watching, kept on hoping that it will improve. And it did, to an extent: but not enough. The characters continued their same tired shtick, and the series continued its same monotonous rhythm. I think a lot of the heart the movie had was lost in translation between movie and sitcom. "Outsourced" is entertaining enough for its time slot, but it isn't adventurous enough to be a "great" show.


My wife and I spent two years in Mumbai a few years ago, and we watch "Outsourced" every week. I'm not surprised the show is having problems finding an audience, though, and would attribute this to two reasons. First, most Americans don't know that much about India, and so the show's creators are limited to some basic material (but they've done a decent job, eg. so far, thankfully, no elephants). Second, some Indians are resentful of the whole idea that Westerners might see their culture as a source for entertainment (see the controversy over "Slumdog Millionaire", or the Jaipur literary festival, key point being that this deep anger of some is rooted in other things but isn't easily ameliorable).


As a professor that teaches about Indian culture, works closely with Indians, and has seen the cultural disparity first hand, not to mention cows walking around in the streets, I find this show not only hilarious, but intelligent and thought provoking. I use it in the classroom to talk about cultural and religious differences in a educated way. I think the people represented are not Indian steretypes, but just types of people, regardless of race. I like that the differences are highlighted and that all people on the show are fallible and open for being the butt of the joke.
I say keep the show, let the intelligent community watch, and let the others watch and learn.


bmh: "The characters continued their same tired shtick, and the series continued its same monotonous rhythm. "

Which sounds like every other sitcom that's ever existed. Personally, I find this show hilarious. I think it's gotten better with each episode, and whatever schtick the characters have is a breath of fresh air compared to the REALLY tired schtick of other current TV sitcoms ("Community" and "Parks and Rec" aside).

Let's face it: Sitcoms boil characters into schticks by default. It's part of the formula. The good ones know when to develop a character further, the bad ones just keep running with the same bits over and over. "Outsourced" has already proven itself the former, with some interesting, heartfelt character arcs. And that's just in almost one season.


and what about the nasty anthem episode!

Irene Mitchel

2 thumbs up for OUTSOURCED. Please renew it and expand it (franchise it) to other countries as well. This show deserves a much more favorable timeslot . It is what it is, and as such, it's simply brilliant. IM


The one thing this article fails to mention is the ratio of offended to non offended. I am guessing the non offended greatly out numbers the offended, at least with people who have actually seen the show.

Comedy shows make fun of people. There is what they do. The only real issue is whether the ribbing is mean spirited. Oursourced is certainly not that. It is one of the more light hearted shows. To not have a show poking fun of Indians is to not have a comedy show about Indians.

Has their ever been an American tv show with a cast of foreign characters (primarily) in a foreign land? This is very unique. I applaud NBC for it. It is amazing the show ever got launched.


Outsourced only offends me because it's just not funny. Its style of humor has no place in the company of multi-dimensional, nuanced shows like 30 Rock or Parks & Rec. If NBC moves it to another night, or cable, I don't care if it lasts twenty seasons. It's nice that people like it. But right now it's stinking up the smartest comedy lineup on TV, and for that I actively dislike it.


LOVE "Outsourced" but it's a shame it's on NBC because people simply don't trust that network to keep any shows, good or otherwise, so it's difficult for any of us to make a commitment to any of their programming. I was a fan of the Highly Praised show "Southland" and they dropped that! Thankfully TNT picked it up, but it just goes to show NBC doesn't have a clue.


I think people are over thinking the "Setting" of the comedy... Outsourced is actually more about the characters and their personalities then anything about American Job loss... I mean common, people need to lighten up! "Hogan's Heroes" was a COMEDY about a Nazi Prison Camp!!!! If you can laugh at that, Outsourced is the least of your worries.



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