Ken Tucker
September 23, 2010 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Outsourced arrived on Thursday night attacked, in many cases without being seen, with accusations of (at best) poor taste or (at worst) racism. If you watched, you know it’s about a smiley American (Ben Rappaport) who moves to Mumbai to oversee the call center of a novelty company.

The comedy of culture clash is often dicey, but Outsourced was careful to make its American characters look just as silly as its Indians. For every mangled American phrase or naughty language confusion (one Indian guy’s name is Manmeet), there were punchlines about how goofy Americans are to enjoy spending their hard-earned cash on joke items such as fake vomit and a mistletoe belt buckle for getting kissed “down there.”

I said Outsourced was careful — too careful, probably, to be very funny. I liked Rizwan Manji as Rajiv, the call-center manager whose rise to the top is, for the moment, stalled by the arrival of Rappaport’s Todd — Rajiv is a clever combination of thwarted ambition, fake obsequiousness, and ruthless, restless intelligence. I also thought Diedrich Bader did his usual excellent job of portraying a loud, braying guy (in this case, the show’s designated Ugly American, suspicious of all Indian food) who’s also fun to be around.

I think that if Outsourced had premiered on, say, Comedy Central, or FX (home to the gleefully, often wonderfully offensive It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), I’ll bet it wouldn’t have stirred up much of a fuss. The fact that Outsourced is on NBC suggests that for all the talk about how the idea of network television is increasingly irrelevant, it’s still the source for most of what many of us watch…and some of us disapprove of.

Really, the main thing I hold against Outsourced isn’t its supposed racism, but the fact that it’s taken the place of my beloved Parks and Recreation in NBC’s Thursday comedy block, at least until midseason.

How about you? Did you watch Outsourced? What did you think?

Follow: @kentucker

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