A Chat with Ben Rappaport (“Outsourced”)

The last time I was out at the TCA tour, I talked to Lucas Neff, the star of Fox’s “Raising Hope,” and I was surprised to find that he was fronting a prime-time comedy when his only prior TV experience involved a couple of scenes in A&E’s “The Beast.” Little did I realize at the time that Ben Rappaport, the star of NBC’s “Outsourced,” was coming in with even less of a television background. I mean, literally, it’s “Outsourced,” and that’s it. When I was in Pasadena earlier this month, I managed to meet and chat with Rappaport for a few minutes about the way his series has been coming along and found out his feelings on the change in the show’s timeslot. Fortunately, it sounds like tonight’s 10:30 PM debut is the perfect way to show newcomers to “Outsourced” just how far it’s come since its debut.

Bullz-Eye: I was actually a fan of the show as soon as I heard about the concept: I used to work in a call center myself.

Ben Rappaport: (Laughs) That’s so great!

BE: Did you have any call center experience yourself?

BR: I did not! My aunt works in a call center, but that’s it. I knew nothing about them…aside from, y’know, occasionally contacting one. (Laughs) But, you know, I didn’t know what was behind them, what was on the other end of that phone. It’s an office, and they have their own office politics and culture there.

BE: When the pilot came out, I know a lot of people kind of bashed it, but how do you think the show has evolved since then?

BR: I think it’s evolved big time! I mean, you know, the term “outsourced” was a way for us to get to India, and now I think everybody’s gotten to know our characters and the relationships and the dynamics. It’s stories about what’s happening between these characters. It’s not political. There’s no agenda there. It’s not sarcastic in any way. We’re just telling a story of people in India.

BE: I was impressed with the direction that it took as far as your romantic storyline. I didn’t expect you to hook up with either of your potential romantic interests quite as quickly as you did.

BR: (Laughs) It was kind of quick, wasn’t it?

BE: Yeah. It’s not bad. It was just surprising.

BR: Yeah, but while it was quick, I think there’s still lots of places to go with it. I mean, I think part of the story might be that it was too quick.

BE: I considered that. Just how long-term is the relationship going to be if they’re willing to jump into the physical side of it that quickly?

BR: (Grins) My point exactly! So we’ll see. We have a long way to go, in terms of fleshing out that whole situation.

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 13 Quotes from Day 8

No proper panels today, but we did a heck of a lot of driving around. It was TCA Day, which meant that we went to this studio and that, visiting the sets of various shows and meeting their casts and creators. It started bright and early with trips to “Lopez Tonight” and “Conan,” then it was over to 20th Century Fox, where we were treated to panels featuring stars from “Glee,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Raising Hope,” and “Modern Family,” divided up into men and women, with Jimmy Kimmel moderating the panel for the guys. After that, we hit the sets of “Cougar Town,” “Parks & Recreation,” and “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.” Good times all around, especially for someone like me, who lives in Virginia and rarely gets to enjoy these kinds of experiences. After that, I headed over to the Vanguard for the taping of two episodes of Season 2 of “The Green Room with Paul Provenza,” which was phenomenal. How can you go wrong with an evening that includes appearances from Ron White, Kathleen Madigan, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Richard Lewis, Jeffrey Ross, and others? Can’t wait to see the final cut of the episode. (They run 30 minutes, but the taping’s more like an hour and a half.)

But I know, you’re wondering, “Why 13 quotes?” It’s a weird number, so it’s a valid question. Originally, it was going to be 15 quotes, but for reasons unknown to me, we have yet to receive a transcription from our trip to the “Parks & Recreation” set, which contained at least two more solid quotes. Oh, well.

1. “I’ve said it before and I sincerely mean it, in the modern landscape of television there is only a few ways to stay on TV, and one of them is to be, you know, lucky as shit and have a huge giant hit, and everybody in the world watches you, and the other is to cultivate a loyal and hopefully intelligent audience that follows you around, and that is in no great part due to people that champion the show if they like it. First and foremost, I wanted to say that for those of you that don’t like the show, fuck you guys. But those of you who have really taken the time to champion the show and write about it and say nice things, I’m grateful. It’s not just for ego reasons, in this day and age it really means something.” – Bill Lawrence, “Cougar Town” (ABC)

2. “On April Fools’, I was talking to Usher, and I said, ‘You have three kids.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘No, I don’t. Don’t you have research people that tell you?’ I mean, and he looks at the audience, and he says, ‘You would think that a host would do his research and know facts about a guest before he asks a question.’ And then he said, ‘April Fool’s.’ He got me, yeah.” – George Lopez, “Lopez Tonight” (TBS)

3. “I’ve never considered myself particularly interested in media. I mean, I’m someone who likes to come in and do my job, and then I like to go home and play with my kids. I wasn’t used to being a media story. It was never a goal of mine. So the strangest thing about immediately after the (end of ‘The Tonight Show’) was my wife decided the next morning, early on, we should just drive up to Santa Barbara and check into a hotel and decompress for three days because she thought this guy needs to decompress. He needs to. So we got up really early in the morning. We got in our car, and we pulled out of our house, and two cars followed right in behind us and followed us all the way to Santa Barbara and then just hung outside the hotel for three days. And, you know, I’m not Brad Pitt. I’m not George Clooney. You know, I’ve been blessed with their DNA, but I just thought, ‘Who are they following?’ So that was weird.

“And there were a lot of highs. I walked into a restaurant that day, and everybody in the restaurant applauded. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s nice. This is weird. And, also, this isn’t a living. I don’t see how to do this as a job, walk around and get applauded in restaurants.’ So there was an initial sort of high, but then I went back to my house, and we had a lot of stuff to figure out. And one of the first things I did was…you know, this show and these shows have been the organizing principle of my life for such a long time that I thought, ‘I’ve got to call my assistant and get to work.’ So I called my assistant, Sona, and I said, ‘We should get together and go over all of the things we need to do.’ And she said, ‘Okay. Where?’ And my wife wanted me out of the house, and so I said, ‘Okay,’ and we decided to meet at a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant.

“I’m not kidding. I hosted ‘The Tonight Show.’ I think the last show was a Friday. I hosted that ‘Tonight Show’ on a Friday, and on Monday, I’m in a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant, and my assistant has a laptop, and we are sitting there. And there’s two other customers in the place, you know, stabbing at a pie at 11:00 in the morning, and this was now my new headquarters. And I pass this Marie Callender’s a lot, and I think about that shocking…I mean, it was just the juxtaposition of these insane images of ‘Tonight Show,’ iconic, Marie Callender’s restaurant, meeting / office. This is where I work now. And that kind of summed up the madness, I think, a little bit of that time.” – Conan O’Brien, “Conan” (TBS)

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2010 Year End TV Review: Will Harris

You’d think it’d be easy for me to pull together a “Best TV of 2010” list, given that I’ve attended two TCA press tours (one in the winter, one in the summer), participated in two editions of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings (one in the spring, one in the fall), and pulled together the site’s annual Fall TV Preview, but damned if that doesn’t somehow make the task harder. Nobody likes to feel like they’re repeating themselves, and given that there’s going to be some inevitable content crossover between all of these various pieces, I often find myself bouncing back and forth between all of these features, wondering if I’m subconsciously recycling a particularly nice choice of phrase. Hopefully, I’ve managed to make this sound at least somewhat original, but if for some reason you feel I’ve failed at that endeavor, please, for God’s sake, don’t take it out on the shows. It’s not their fault, and they shouldn’t be held accountable for my lack of creativity.

Oh, and one other note: in a further effort to avoid conceptual duplication, I’ve only written about each show once, so if you see a show’s title without anything written beside it, look back and you’ll find where I’ve already written about it. That, or I screwed up. Either’s possible, really. (I’m only human, after all.)

Best Shows to Come and Go within 2010

1. Terriers (FX) – It’s a testament to the quality of “Terriers” that FX president John Landgraf held a teleconference with journalists after breaking the news of the series’ cancellation in order to explain his actions, but I don’t think anyone really blamed the guy, anyway: the show’s ratings were as deplorable as the writing was phenomenal. Between the awful ad campaign for the show (no, it wasn’t about dogs) and the fact that many of the viewers who did tune in were kind of bummed out by too-real character traits and developments like alcoholism, infidelity, divorce, and mental illness, it’s not a surprise that it wasn’t a huge hit. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing.
2. Lone Star (Fox) – I’d like to think that this “Dallas”-esque series about a con man leading two lives would’ve been battling with “Terriers” for the top spot if only Fox hadn’t canceled it after only two episodes…but, then, if they can’t canceled it after only two episodes, then maybe viewers might’ve embraced “Lone Star” enough that it wouldn’t have been canceled at all. Oh, wait, never mind, I forgot: it was on Fox, so it probably still would’ve been canceled, anyway. Even so, Kyle Killen provided an intriguing concept and delivered it with the help of a top-notch cast. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see more of it.

3. Warren the Ape (MTV) – So falls another network effort by one of our favorite fabricated Americans. Greg the Bunny couldn’t keep a show alive on either Fox or IFC, but it really seemed like a given that the shenanigans of Warren the Ape were tailor-made for MTV viewers. Not so, apparently. Frankly, the whole thing smacks of anti-puppetism. Warren himself has conceded that “fabricated Americans still have a very long way to go in this country, and I think it’s always going to be an uphill battle.” How right he was.
4. Happy Town (ABC) – Note to ABC’s publicity department: while I appreciate your intentions when you underlined the comparisons between “Happy Town” and “Twin Peaks” with a giant Magic Marker, you have to expect that “Twin Peaks” fans are going to offer up their equivalent of the old “I knew Jack Kennedy” line. Yeah, I know, you only meant it as a point of reference, and you never intended to imply that the two series were on even creative footing, but try telling them that. For my part, I thought it was a creepy little sleeper of a show…but, unfortunately, the other five people who agreed with me weren’t enough to keep it on the air.

5. Sons of Tucson (Fox) – I’m still not quite sure what Fox was thinking by trying to slot this poor live-action sitcom into the midst of their otherwise-animated Sunday night line-up. Maybe they’d hoped it would instill viewers with a bit of nostalgia for the days of “Malcolm in the Middle,” given the similarity in feel between that show and “Tucson.” If so, the plan failed miserably. In a perfect world, the network would raise the series from the dead and team it with “Raising Hope.” Now that’s a double bill I could get behind.

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2010 Year End TV Review: Scott Malchus

2010 was another great year of television, despite the fact that most of the new fall network shows were forgettable. While the big four seem to have a handle on coming up with new comedies, they still can’t develop innovative dramas to compete with the cable channels. Fox made an attempt with their excellent “Lone Star,” but viewers stayed away and the series was quickly cancelled (despite support from the network president). With Lost leaving the airwaves, it seems that if you want to watch something other than a procedural, you’ll have to tune to AMC, FX or HBO. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great cop, lawyer or medical shows (“The Good Wife” immediately jumps to mind), but the TV landscape is wide open enough that stories about all walks of life should be able to survive.

Best Drama: Friday Night Lights (Direct TV/NBC)

There was a lot of great drama on television this year (“Southland” was exceptional, “Lost” went out in glorious fashion, “Men of a Certain Age” was moving and effective), but I would be remiss if I didn’t place “FNL” at the top of my list, just where it has been since the show premiered in 2006. It’s hard to believe that this will be its last season. No other show has me cheering and laughing and crying week in and week out. Even during the cringe worthy moments (Julie’s affair with the TA) I can’t bring myself to raise the remote and fast forward through them. I’ve stated time and again on Popdose that this show is the most realistic portrayal of small town life I’ve ever seen on television, with beautifully written and acted characters, smart direction, and perfect music selections to create the mood of each scene (not to mention W.G. Snuffy’s poignant score). I love the Taylors; I love the community of Dillon, Texas; and I love Friday Night Lights.

Best Comedy: Modern Family (ABC)

A tough category. There are so many strong comedies on television right now, including NBC’s Thursday night lineup and ABC’s Wednesday shows. Of all of them, “Modern Family” makes me laugh the hardest; so hard that my wife and I have to rewind to hear the second and third jokes of each scene. With a great cast and insightful writing, “Modern Family” is a modern classic.

Best Reality: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

I generally hate reality shows on network television, however there is something truly inspiring about “The Biggest Loser” that grabs me every week. Here is a series about people seriously having to take back their lives otherwise they could die. The money at the end never seems to be as important as the health benefits they receive. Unlike most of the reality competitions shows, the inspiration that comes from watching “The Biggest Loser” occurs from watching every contestant, not just a select few. Obesity has overtaken our country and the men and women of “The Biggest Loser” prove that you can take back your life and that you are in control of it.

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Clippin’ Out: “Raising Hope” / “Running Wilde” (Fox)

At 23 years old, Jimmy Chance is going nowhere in life. He skims pools for a living, parties every night and still lives at home with his family, including his Maw Maw; his mother, Virginia, and his father, Burt. Jimmy’s life takes a drastic turn when a chance romantic encounter with Lucy goes awry once he discovers she is a wanted felon. Months later, when Jimmy pays a visit to the local prison, he learns Lucy is pregnant with their baby, and after she gives birth, he is charged with raising their daughter. Back at home, Jimmy’s family is less than enthusiastic about a new addition to the household. His parents, who had him when they were 15, never knew anything about raising a child and have no interest in trying again. Jimmy may be able to get some help from SABRINA, a sardonic checkout clerk he met at the supermarket if only he can work up the nerve to ask her out. Despite it all, Jimmy is determined to take care of his baby – whom Virginia thinks they should name Hope. With very few useful skills but their hearts in the right place, will the Chance family be successful when they step into the unpredictable and immensely challenging world of parenting? (Premieres Sept. 21)

Steve Wilde has never performed a selfless act. But why should he? He’s rich! The son of an oil tycoon, Steve hasn’t had to work a day in his life and has always gotten everything he’s wanted – with one exception: the love of Emmy. The daughter of a former Wilde housekeeper, Emmy is an earnest do-gooder who has spent her adult life trying to save the world. And though Emmy is content living with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest, her 12-year-old daughter, Puddle, just wants to be a normal kid experiencing her adolescence in a normal place. And she would speak up except for the fact that she hasn’t spoken in a few months. When Wilde Oil’s expansion in the rainforest threatens her adopted tribe, Emmy decides to attend Steve’s self-thrown “Humanitarian of the Year” award ceremony in hopes of convincing him to help her cause…and also maybe because she still has a thing for Steve. But same-old Steve is unwilling to help because fighting Wilde Oil (a/k/a Dad) means putting his meal ticket in jeopardy. Rather than run the risk of letting Emmy slip away again, Steve pulls out all the stops to win her heart. To do so, he enlists the only other people in his life who can help: Oxford-accented neighbor and “frenemy” Fa’ad Shaoulian; Migo Salazar, Steve’s employee/sidekick/errand-boy; and (reluctantly) the scheming Mr. Lunt, Steve’s “manny”-turned-secretary as well as the biggest protector of Steve…and his own job. Despite having everything he ever wanted, Steve knows he can’t buy love and happiness, which falls in sharp contrast to Emmy, who has nothing but love and happiness. So with Emmy committed to doing good for nothing, and Steve being a good for nothing, will this hopelessly mismatched pair ever be able to reconcile their differences? (Premieres Sept. 21)

  

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