TCA Press Tour: 'Outsourced' is 'a little bit of a risk'
Well, if you’re from the cast of “Outsourced,” you try to get a date.
“I tried to chat up the other girl on the other end,” said Sacha Dhawan, who plays Manmeet, adding that he thought his parents would be happy he found an Indian mate.
“I had the other thing,” said Rebecca Hazlewood, who plays Asha, “I had them chatting me up.”
All jokes aside, “Outsourced,” the new NBC comedy coming to Thursday nights, couldn’t farm out the heavy dose of questions during the TCA press tour that centered on whether its premise was offensive, if not for its insensitivity about outsourcing jobs while our country is reeling from a recession then for its cultural stereotypes.
In the workplace comedy, the culture clash is working overtime. The fictional Mid-America Novelties, an all-American company that sells everything from faux blood puddles to condom hats, has its call center outsourced to India and they recruit 25-year-old (and cash-strapped) Todd Dempsey, played by Ben Rappaport, to manage the staff and school them on American culture — who else would buy condom hats?
Ken Kwapis and Robert Borden, the show’s executive producers, were joined by the cast at the show’s panel Friday. And they were quick to take the calls, er, questions.
“It’s a point of departure,” Borden said. “It’s a workplace comedy with a fish out of water element. It’s a little bit different; it’s it a little bit of a risk. It’s nice to have a network supporting a comedy that’s a little bit different … it’s point of departure to meet a group of character that you don’t get to meet very often in a half hour comedy.”
The Indian actors from the show seemed to agree.
“ ’Outsourced’ is much about the West as it is about the East,” Dhawan said. “What we’re doing is making the gap very small.”
Anisha Nagarajan, who plays Madhuri, had this to say:
“I think all my family and friends are excited to see such a large Indian contingent on television … that we’re getting out there.”
In the upcoming season, we’ll see Asha enter an arranged marriage, something the Western characters don’t understand — “both sides of view will be presented,” Borden said. Sexuality will also be explored through Tanya (Pippa Black), an Australian who manages the Koala Airlines call center in the same building — “She’ll be quite a contrast a contrast for people who are slightly more modest in the show,” Borden said.
“There’s a way to deal with cultural confusion that’s not offensive to any party,” Kwapis added.
And those shots of Mumbai? Just stock footage. The show is shot in Studio City. But they’re all hoping a trip to India is in the future, especially Diedrich Bader, who plays America-loving Charlie Davies and seems to be open to other acting opportunities.
“Maybe I could do a Bollywood movie,” he said.
Photo: (l-r) Diedrich Bader; Ken Kwapis, executive producer; Parvesh Cheena; Robert Borden, executive producer; Anisha Nagarajan; Ben Rappaport; Rizwan Manji; Rebecca Hazlewood; Pippa Black; Sacha Dhawan. Credit: Chris Haston/NBC