A smart move, a dim one

‘Out­sourced’ works, but ‘$#*! My Dad Says’ should have stayed on Twit­ter.

Los Angeles Times - - At The Movies - ROBERT LLOYD TELE­VI­SION CRITIC

One thing con­nects the pro­tag­o­nists of the come­dies “$#*! My Dad Says” and “Out­sourced,” premier­ing Thurs­day on CBS and NBC, re­spec­tively: They owe money on stu­dent loans, which lim­its their life choices to mov­ing in with Dad, in the first in­stance, and mov­ing to In­dia, in the sec­ond. Oth­er­wise, these se­ries are as dif­fer­ent as toma­toes and ketchup, with the dis­tinc­tion that both toma­toes and ketchup are good, but one of these shows is not.

“Out­sourced” (which I think of as the tomato in the sim­ile above) is a cross-cul­tural fish-out-of-wa­ter/ gang-of-losers tale that joins NBC’s Thurs­day night in­sti­tu­tional com­edy block. Based on a 2006 in­de­pen­dent film by John Jef­f­coat, who is on board for the se­ries as well, it con­cerns Todd (Ben Rap­pa­port, new to the medium), a sales­man for a Kansas City nov­elty com­pany who is packed off to the sub­con­ti­nent to head their newly out­sourced call cen­ter and school the peo­ple of Mum­bai in the art of sell­ing foam cheese­heads, toi­let-shaped cof­fee mugs and var­i­ous plas­tic ex­cres­cences.

I ap­proached with trep­i­da­tion — you walk a fine, slip­pery line when you con­trive to build a com­edy around Peo­ple Who Talk Funny and lam­poon, from a su­per­power’s per­spec­tive, a for­eign cul­ture. But “Out­sourced” seems to me the most deftly re­al­ized sit­com of the new sea­son. It is no closer to re­al­ity than any of its Thurs­day night neigh­bors (Ken Kwapis, of “The Of­fice” and other good things, de­vel­oped it and di­rected the pi­lot), but it has a top-flight cast, char­ac­ters who show you who they are rather than telling you, smart writ­ing, sure rhythms and a cheer­ful at­ti­tude.

Wil­liam Shat­ner, who has most al­ways played com­edy whether or not he was play­ing in a com­edy, has beamed down into a stan­dard three-cam­era sit­com, “$#*! My Dad Says,” based on a Twit­ter feed (!) by Justin Halpern, who also co-cre­ated the se­ries. The opener, in which Halpern’s flat-broke al­ter ego, Henry (Jonathan Sad­owski), comes home to San Diego, has been sub­stan­tially re­vised from the orig­i­nal pi­lot but not im­proved, only made more sen­ti­men­tal.

Shat­ner’s Ed is hardly the first dif­fi­cult dad of tele­vi­sion. (Redd Foxx, Jerry Stiller, we could go on.) Old folks speak­ing un­com­fort­able truths, talk­ing dirty, rid­ing on mo­tor­cy­cles — such things have long been con­sid­ered comic dy­na­mite. Oddly, at 79, Shat­ner comes across as too en­er­getic and youth­ful even for the 72year-old he’s play­ing. The big­ger prob­lem is that he’s given noth­ing to do or say worth the do­ing or say­ing. He gets bet­ter mileage from a Price­line com­mer­cial.

Now, if you’ll ex­cuse me, I’m off to reg­is­ter “$#*! My Cat Says.” I think that $#*! could turn into some­thing.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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