NEWSFLASH: CBS Picks up J.J. Abrams/Jonathan Nolan Pilot, Person of Interest

J.J. Abrams (left), Jonathan Nolan (right)

In news that should make every genre fan happy for a variety of reasons, CBS has greenlit the pilot for the J.J. Abrams/Jonathan Nolan project, Person of Interest.

From Deadline.com:

“The project, from Warner Bros. TV and Abrams’ Bad Robot, is a crime drama centered on a CIA agent, presumed dead, who is recruited by a reclusive billionaire to wage war against violent criminals in New York City.”

The interesting thing about this is that the first time we looked at this piece the other day, in the description it featured the phrase,

“An ex-CIA hitman and a scientist team up to prevent crimes before they happen.”

You’ll notice that in the comments section of the Deadline piece that the above description is even referred to by one of the various whiny posters on that site.  We don’t know why this was scrubbed from the original piece but we were able to find the same description posted at Entertainment Weekly and it is described as “official” although no sources were indicated to verify that it is indeed official, but it is coming from EW so there’s no reason to assume that it’s not legitimate.

That being said, though,  since it isn’t sourced at this point and Deadline did scrub their original piece (and ALL Abrams’ projects are notoriously secretive), officially we can’t say whether it’s more like Human Target or more like the Stephen Spielberg Sci-Fi flick Minority Report or a hybrid of both, perhaps.

So what is so great about this project, anyway?  Well, of course, it’s a J.J. Abrams project and he’s just about the hottest property in Hollywood right despite the recent failure of NBC’s Undercovers (which, unlike audiences, we actually liked) so that’s the biggest selling point but maybe as cool is that this story is the brainchild of Jonathan Nolan.

Jonathan (whose nickname is “Jonah”)  is of course the younger brother of esteemed director and writer Christopher Nolan who is of course famous for the most recent Batman film franchise, Memento, The Prestige and 2010’s blockbuster hit (and Academy Award nominee for Best Picture) Inception.  What folks may not know (we certainly didn’t) is that Jonathan Nolan actually co-wrote The Dark Knight and The Prestige with his brother as well as Memento and he actually wrote Memento Mori, the original short story which the film is based on.  Oh, yeah… he also wrote the screenplay for the highly anticipated third installment of the Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises and he co-wrote 2009’s Terminator: Salvation.  You can check out his whole bio here.

CBS: "Don't worry, genre fans. We're not FOX."

Needless to say, Jonathan Nolan is an experienced and talented genre writer and we are looking forward to what he can bring to television with J.J. Abrams and though normally we would worry about a show like this because it usually winds up getting pitched to FOX and we all know what happens with brilliant genre and scripted drama that FOX gets their hands on, even with J.J. Abrams’ name attached to it.  This is not the case with CBS who tends to have a pretty good eye (no pun intended, but we’re going with it) for this type of scripted genre programming and give shows like this some time to build an audience.

Michael Emerson

Oh, and one more thing:  Guess who’s already been cast for the pilot?  None other than Lost alum Michael Emerson.  According to Reuters, Emerson who’s best known for his Emmy award-winning role as Ben Linus on Lost, will play the billionaire benefactor who will aid our player-to-be-named-later in fighting crime.

We don’t really know any more details right now about Person of Interest and probably won’t for some time (again, that’s to be expected with Abrams) but we are hopeful for an air date of Fall 2011 for the pilot but realistically it’s probably going to air mid-season 2011 – 2012.  The ‘Tastic, of course will keep you updated.

‘Outsourced’ (NBC – Thursday, 9:30 p.m.)

“Outsourced” is NBC’s new workplace comedy series centered around a catalog-based company, Mid America Novelties, that sells American novelty goods including whoopee cushions, foam fingers and wallets made of bacon, and whose call center has suddenly been outsourced to India.

After recently completing Mid America Novelties’ manager training program, Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport, off-Broadway’s “The Gingerbread House”) learns that the call center is being outsourced to India, and he is asked to move there to be the manager. Having never ventured out of the country, he is unprepared for the culture shock. Overwhelmed, Todd discovers that his new staff needs a crash course in all things American if they are to understand the U.S. product line and ramp up sales from halfway around the world.

The sales team Todd inherits includes Gupta (Parvesh Cheena, “Help Me Help You”), a socially awkward employee; Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan, BBC’s “Five Days II”), a young romantic who is enamored with America; Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood, BBC’s “Doctors”), a smart, striking woman who finds herself intrigued by Todd; Rajiv (Rizwan Manji, “Privileged”) the assistant manager who wants Todd’s job; and Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan, Broadway’s “Bombay Dreams”), a wallflower who suffers from extreme shyness.

Todd also discovers other transplants working in his office building, including an American expatriate, Charlie Davies (Diedrich Bader, “The Drew Carey Show”), who runs the All-American Hunter call center, and Tonya (Pippa Black, “Neighbours”), a beautiful Australian who runs the call center for Koala Air. – NBC

The Preview (Originally posted on 9/23/2010):

Shawn: I don’t know what appeals to me more, the politically incorrect tone of this series or the fact that it looks absolutely hilarious. I also like the premise that they telemarket novelties like rubber vomit and whoopee cushions. Looking forward to this, I hope the show can live up to the hype in the trailer.

The Review:

7 out of 10

Unfortunately, Outsourced looked a lot funnier in the trailer than it has turned out to be. I’m not saying that I don’t like the show but I think the whole concept of the series works better for a film than it does for a weekly sitcom.

The hilarious trailer is literally a four-minute summation of the entire pilot episode and though the jokes while rapid-fire in the trailer are very funny, they don’t work particularly well for comedic value over the course of 23 minutes. That or it was one of those issues like with the film The Hangover where they literally showed every funny scene in the movie in the trailers and because of that when I actually saw it I didn’t think it was that funny. Probably not, though, because every episode following the pilot has followed the same trend and I’m still not laughing as much as I would have hoped.

Every single episode kind of follows the same formula and that is Todd dealing with an issue involving the differences between American culture and Indian culture. Some of the jokes work but a lot of them don’t and the reason why is that they keep reverting to this standby of taking an American turn-of-phrase and having one of the Indian characters repeat it using a funny accent and saying it in the style of… well… an Indian. Here’s an example:

Gupta: As you say in America, it looks like you are up a creek and have forgotten your paddle. Also, this is a creek of feces… a most unpleasant creek for you.

See what I mean? That line was one of the funnier ones but every episode is full of these and it gets a little stale when there’s a dozen of those per episode because you really just start expecting it. Like I said, it’s the kind of thing that works sporadically in a feature film but it can’t carry a series. Just think of how well it worked during the few cameo scenes with Mooj (Gerry Bednob) in The 40 Year-Old Virgin (and it was even funnier because he was so foul-mouthed).

WARNING: NSFW (LANGUAGE, SEXUAL REMARKS)

But you wouldn’t want a whole series based around that (foul language and sexual remarks notwithstanding). It would be like having an entire series based around people who tried to speak American English but they also sounded like Yoda. It would be funny the first couple of times but it would lose its appeal rather quickly.

Beyond that, though, these characters are very likable and although the different scenarios all have the same general premise, I find myself still wanting to tune in every week. It’s very charming.

So, in the end, Outsourced is an enjoyable show even if it’s not as funny as I would have expected and it does have the potential to pick up steam and become a lot funnier with a little bit of effort on the writer’s part.

Watch full episodes of Outsourced, here.