It’s not often I admit to being wrong. This is not to say I’m never wrong, but rather that I rarely admit to it. However, where NBC’s freshman series OUTSOURCED is concerned, I feel the need to not only admit that my initial opinion was wrong, but heap a bit of praise upon the show. Sight unseen, I — and I suspect many others — rolled my eyes at what I assumed would be an offensive show playing upon every stereotype in the book. But in my rush to judgement, I forgot that some of the best television shows manage to play upon stereotypes (which are, in almost all cases, based on at least a nugget of truth) in a funny and often heartwarming way. ALL IN THE FAMILY managed to make us love a bigot, while WILL & GRACE taught us the difference between laughing with and laughing at people who embrace the very thing that makes them different. Likewise, OUTSOURCED proves itself to be a quirky, wildly-charming show populated by some of the most lovable folks currently occupying primetime. Whether the humor is mined from names — my personal favorite is Manmeet — or the culture clashes born of the stranger-in-a-strange-land premise, the laughs here are as hardy as they are heartfelt. While comparisons to THE OFFICE are perhaps inevitable, OUTSOURCED is quickly shaping up to be a far superior show if only for the lack of a character as annoying as Michael or Dwight (although Diedrich Bader’s borderline-psychotic Charlie comes pretty darn close).
I hate commercials. With a passion. So for me to actually stop fast-forwarding whatever I happen to be watching, a commercial has to really, really grab my attention. Yet that’s exactly what I do whenever the Allstate commercials featuring Dean Winters — aka OZ inmate Ryan O’Reailly and 30 ROCK’s “beeper king” Dennis Duffy — playing Mayhem (Posted Above). In fact, I think I might have to form some kind of support group for people who can’t get enough of insurance spokespeople. Whether it’s Winters, the Geiko gecko or Flo, the Progressive insurance gal (aka actress Stephanie Courtney), the industry currently seems to have cornered the market on cool spokesfolk.
After several cycles of CELEBRITY APPRENTICE, it’s actually nice to have a real-people edition of the show. On the star-packed edition, nearly every challenge inevitably boils down to “who can get the most rich people to write big checks”, whereas the regular version actually relies, at least to some extent, on actual abilities. And let’s face it: Rare is the celeb who’s going to bring the train-wreck appeal of David, to whom every viewer can relate. He’s that guy in the next cubicle we all do everything in our power to avoid because, well, he’s an ass. And of course, every single quality that would make him a nightmarish co-worker happens to make for fantastic television.
As regular readers of this column know, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is one of those shows that I want better for. It has an incredible cast and a premise that should make it one of the most entertaining shows on the dial. Yet all too often, it falls short thanks to what I consider a fatal flaw: The inability — or perhaps unwillingness — of its writing staff to allow the sudsy drama to truly lather up. This season has, so far, been a bit of a mixed bag, although better than last. As usual the villain-of-the-year is as intriguing as he is underplayed. We get tiny snippets of Paul and his in-over-her-head bride, but have yet to see enough of his plot to be intrigued. And new-gal-on-the-block Renee (the always-phenomenal Vanessa Williams) is… well, a toothless Wilhelmina. Is she a maneater or a gal pal? Both, because she’s currently being written as a character who bends to the needs of that week’s script as opposed to one who has an actual purpose on the show. What should have been a wonderfully emotional story involving Gaby and Carlos dealing with a long-ago baby switch has all-too-quickly turned into a predictable mess. Surprisingly, Susan’s foray into soft-core porn has been one of the most compelling tales of the season. It’s nice to see a storyline which in the past would have been dealt with in a single episode for laughs actually turned into something with at least a few more teeth. In fact, it seems that this season. Lynette and Tom have been turned into the “plot-of-the-week” couple, with him developing “post-partum depression” and, a week later, Lynette turning pre-teen Penny into a junior nanny. It’s still a hit-or-miss show for me, but this season has, so far, been at least slightly more hit than miss.