South Asians and the Call Center Narrative

Accents and Cross-Cultural Communication in TV’s Outsourced

Authored by: Shilpa Davé

The Routledge Companion to Asian American Media

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138846012
eBook ISBN: 9781315727745
Adobe ISBN: 9781317540847

10.4324/9781315727745.ch20

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Abstract

In 2010, NBC announced the premiere of a situation comedy called Outsourced to anchor their successful Thursday night back-to-back lineup of Community (2009–2015), 30 Rock (2006–2013), and The Office (2005–2013). South Asian communities often referred to the Thursday night comedy lineup (which included Parks and Recreation the previous year) as “must see desi TV” because each of the comedies featured a South Asian American actor playing a South Asian American character. Featured actors included Daniel Pudi, Malik Pancholy, Aziz Ansari, and Mindy Kaling. The series Outsourced (2010–2011), however, departed from the previous programs because almost all the roles (as opposed to one role) were South Asian characters, and they were played by South Asian actors from Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. In addition, for the first time on American television, the show was set in the offices of an American corporate customer service call center in Mumbai, India. 1 The series debuted to a 3.6 rating in the 18–49 demographic and attracted 7.49 million viewers, making it NBC’s second highest-rated scripted show. However, the first few episodes had mixed reviews from critics, fans, and the South Asian American community, and subsequent episodes did not match the ratings of the premiere. 2 In mid-season the series was moved to the 10:30 pm Eastern time slot after 30 Rock, and ratings reached a low of 1.4 in the 18–49 demographic, with just 2.97 million viewers. Although the show continued to be one of the most DVR’d programs and a vigorous grassroots campaign was launched (including a Facebook site entitled SAVE OUTSOURCED) to renew the series, Outsourced was cancelled after one season. 3

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