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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Kelly MacDonald and Steve Buscemi star in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

In Movies & TV Commentary

"Outsourced" is the rare comedy that shows us something outside the U.S.

In Movies & TV Commentary

The cast of "Community" goes stop-action next month.

OnMedia: TV I'm thankful for this year

While the fall TV season hasn't been very memorable, I have been able to find two shows -- a drama and a comedy -- to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The drama is simple, although it's not on one of the broadcast networks. HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" started strong, and has improved as its gone on, demonstrating one of my favorite historical truths: Times don't really change, it's just the fashions and technology that does.

While Steve Buscemi is perfect as Atlantic City crime boss and pol Nucky Thompson, the biggest surprise has been the development of Kelly MacDonald's Margaret Schroeder.

She moves deftly from being the submissive wife of a thug to becoming Thompson's mistress, with an eye on using her new power. Like anyone amassing power she compromises beliefs that once seemed crucial to her.

Picking a comedy isn't quite so simple.

Last year, there was "Modern Family," still the best comedy on television, reinvigorating the mockumentary style of "The Office," and providing multiple laughs weekly.

There just isn't a sitcom that good among the new entries this season.

So this time, I'm thinking beyond the specific laughs as I pick NBC's "Outsourced" as the best new comedy.

Just writing the words "set in India" shows why "Outsourced" deserves attention. Network TV rarely admits that there is a world outside the continental United States. Sometimes, TV shows limit the world to either New York or California.

"Outsourced" looks at a third-tier call center in India and the young American manager sent there to run it. The Indian crew is tasked with selling silly novelty items to Americans.

Yes, it treads on potentially offensive ground.

But the jokes are frequently at the expense of Americans who throw money away on cheeseheads and silly coffee cups.

This clip, from last week's Thanksgiving show, offers a few attempts to explain the holiday to the call center workers.

Finally, I'm thankful for how NBC's "Community" has developed.

The sitcom created by ComedySportz veteran Dan Harmon matured nicely through its first season last year. But this year, it's moved to a new level.

The center of the show has shifted away from Joel McHale's snarky Jeff to Abed, played by Marquette grad Danny Pudi. He's an innocent who lacks the ability to read social cues, and sees the world as an episode of a TV show or a movie. In fact, he's the rare character who recognizes that he is a character.

It sounds too deep for a network sitcom, and it may be. In its 7 p.m. Thursday slot, it's up against CBS' fine "Big Bang Theory" and soon will also face Fox's "American Idol." I'm thankful for how long it's lasted, and hopeful for its survival.

Here's a preview of the upcoming Christmas episode, done in glorious Rankin-Bass style stop-action animation:


johninmke | Nov. 30, 2010 at 9:16 a.m. (report)

Community is an excellent show and much better this season than last. I look forward to the last 45 seconds of each episode of Community with Abed and Troy. Always hilarious.

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sandstorm | Nov. 30, 2010 at 7:39 a.m. (report)

Outsourced is outright crap. not offensive for it's cliches and stereotypes, but offensive for passing itself off as comedy.

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