First Impressions

Raising Hope / Outsourced

Aired on: FOX / NBC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            The 2010 fall season offers up a plentitude of new dramatic series but is sadly deficient in its comedy department.  Thus far, I have only sampled two of the new comedies offered up for our television enjoyment, Raising Hope on FOX and Outsourced on NBC.  One of these shows exhibits great promise and the other…well, I wonder why I wanted to see it so badly.

            First up is Raising Hope which premiered on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 9:00pm EST (right after Glee) on the FOX network.  Raising Hope stars Lucas Neff as Jimmy Chance, a 23-year-old loser working for his father’s pool cleaning / landscaping company.  Jimmy lives at home with his mother, Virginia (Martha Plimpton), a harsh, chain smoking woman with a negative personality; his father, Burt (Gary Dillahunt), a goofy, illiterate severely lacking in people skills; his cousin, Mike (Skylar Stone), a dense party animal; and his grandmother, Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman), who suffers from Alzheimer’s

            In the premiere episode, Jimmy picks up a woman named Lucy (Bijou Phillips)  on the side of the road, believing that he is rescuing her.  They engage in a one night stand before Jimmy realizes that he has just gotten involved with a woman wanted for multiple murders.  The family turns her in and expects that this is the last they will hear from Lucy, who is slated for execution.  Unfortunately, that one night stand yielded some results and Jimmy learns he is a father, taking custody of the baby just prior to Lucy’s execution.  Jimmy, a young man with little direction and less than a future must find a way to raise his child with the help of his eccentric and less than enthusiastic family.  Jimmy soon learns that this is no easy task and that he will make quite a few mistakes before his child, Hope, even makes it out of diapers.

            I had such hopes for this series having seen some hysterical promos of Cloris Leachman running outside wearing nothing but a bra and pants, Cloris Leachman confusing Lucas Neff for her husband and French-kissing him, and a scene in which Lucas Neff’s character learns that you must seatbelt a child seat to the car in order for the child to be safe.  I figured, with stars like Cloris Leachman, an old hack at comedy, and Martha Plimpton, a superb and under-rated actress, how could this series go wrong. 

            Well, I was wrong.  After watching the premiere episode of Raising Hope, I didn’t feel happy, or entertained.  All I felt was disappointment.  The story was mostly flat, clinging to the hopes that the audience would find the antics of white trash funny enough that the writing wouldn’t be so important.  Martha Plimpton’s acting prowess is wasted here, although she does a valiant job to prove otherwise.  The funniest moments contain Cloris Leachman at her finest, but even she couldn’t save this show.  Decidedly not funny, I vowed not to watch another minute of Raising Hope after this disastrous premiere.

            The show I thought I was going to hate was Outsourced, which had offered up some funny promos, but was given little hype.  It’s true that all of us have experienced outsourced resources first hand.  I, myself, experienced the frustration dealing with folks in Malaysia when something happened to my computer printer.  I was completely frustrated as I was transferred here and there, much of the time to individuals whose accents I couldn’t understand.  The language barrier was just as frustrating to me as it was to the person on the other end of the phone.  When I finally got hold of someone who spoke perfect English, it was only to discover that this person did not work in the department I needed to fix my printer.  In the end, I had to send the printer all the way to Malaysia to discover that there was nothing wrong with it that a little fresh ink wouldn’t cure.  Sigh!  It was that frustration with outsourcing that made me think, “Yeah, this show could be funny for one episode, but how can it succeed for more than   that?

            Outsourced debuted on NBC at 9:30pm EST on Thursday, September 23, 2010 and stars Ben Rappaport as Todd Dempsey, an American novelties company employee who has returned from management training to learn that his order processing department has been outsourced to India.  If he wants to keep his job, Todd must move to India and manage the order processing department there.  Upon arriving in India, he discovers that he will be working with an interesting group of employees who have no idea what American novelties are let alone how to sell them.

            Todd’s challenge is to unite this eclectic group and create a team that can not only sell his products, but can earn the company a profit.  The going won’t be easy though, what with the assistant manager Rajiiv Gidwani (Rizwan Manji) always looking for an angle to get rid of Todd so he can have his job all to himself.   And then, there are the employees themselves like Gupta (Parvesh Cheena), the not so intelligent employee who never knows when a conversation is over; Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan), the self-perceived ladies man; Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood), a pretty woman who develops something of a crush on Todd and Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan), a meek, timid woman who barely ever speaks above a whisper.

            Now, this show, I liked.  Expecting a great many jokes at the expense of the Indian culture, I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy Outsourced, but the reality is, although there are some moments when these types of jokes come up, they are tastefully done.  Much of the time is spent on poking fun at the American culture as seen through the eyes of the people of India.  That’s what makes this show so funny.  If Todd thinks it is difficult integrating into this new culture, imagine how tough it must be for the Indians working in this company to adjust to selling American products that no one really needs.

            This concept makes for hilarious moments in the show and I found that I enjoyed Outsourced so much that I had to see another episode.  Soon, I realized that I had completely misjudged this show from the beginning.  In each episode, Outsourced focuses on a different issue that comes up within the company, adding to the longevity of the series.  The first episode focused on getting the department off the ground.  The second episode focused on the need for more revenue, a possibility that someone might need to be fired and the problem with the “relationships” with American women Manmeet was experiencing. 

            The first and second episodes of Outsourced were hysterical, although I must admit that I could do without the snarkiness of Charlie Davies (Diedrich Baker), another American who manages another outsourced sales department.  I never liked this actor, and even though I understand that he provides a contrast to Todd’s good guy persona, I find the character to be repugnant.  And yet, I can deal with it.  My only worry is the timeslot they have placed Outsourced in.  With ratings phenom Grey’s Anatomy as a rival, how can this show possibly succeed?  Hopefully, through word of mouth, Outsourced will rise to the challenge and overcome adversity as the only worthwhile comedy of the 2010 fall season.


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