Indian Americans are generally not seen on American Prime Time Television. And when they are, they are parodied as nerds or tech geeks. This is of course better than the earlier portraits of India as the land of snake charmers and elephants. Frankly, we would rather not see people of Indian origin on American Prime Time than watch them in stereotypical roles.
Then we saw last week’s episode of Rules of Engagement on CBS.
After watching a heavy day of European crisis and stock market sell off on CNBC, we were hungry for some light entertainment in the evening. The show Rules of Engagement is tailor made for that. When the show began, it was about two Manhattan couples and their friend, Russell Dunbar, played by David Spade. Russell is a single guy on the prowl, sort of an older and sleazier version of his earlier role of Dennis Finch in Just Shoot Me.
A few episodes ago, the show added a new character Timmy, a South African MBA (clearly of Indian origin) who becomes the assistant to Russell. Timmy is your classic Indian type, a bright MBA who comes across as bookish, a perfect foil for his boss, the older single guy always looking to score.
(Russell & Timmy in the diner) (Jeff watching TV – our own favorite activity)
But unlike other shows, Rules Of Engagement has always treated the role of Timmy with respect. This week (Monday, May 17), the show took this respect to a totally different level. The character of Jeff, a husband in the show, is played by Patrick Warburton of Seinfeld’s “David Puddy” fame. Jeff like David Puddy is a huge sports fan and plays a TV-style All-American guy.
This episode features a mano-a-mano confrontation between Jeff & Timmy.
At minute 01:57 of the show, Jeff walks in to the show’s diner and finds Timmy sitting alone. Jeff is in visible discomfort because he has never spoken with Timmy alone.
- Jeff – What’s your deal?
- Timmy – How do you mean?
- Jeff – I don’t know, you talk one way but you look another. So I don’t know what’s going on?
At this point, Timmy spots Russell and says “Mr. Dunbar, over here, please hurry“. Russell sits down. Timmy opens his package and tells Russell that it is a Cricket video game sent to him from South Africa.
- Russell – Why is it not legal in the US? You got to get on the geek market?
- Timmy – Nothing geeky about it. Cricket is a tremendously exciting sport
Jeff gets involved and insults cricket. Jeff & Timmy trade a couple of insults. Then:
- Jeff sneers in an English accent – The guy on the box is wearing a sweater; it is ever so chilly.
- Timmy – Well, I see the Ugly American has weighed in at about 20 lbs more than most Doctors would recommend
- Jeff – Sorry we all can’t have that ropey underfed look….
- Jeff – Now look there is a warning – not suitable for anyone who wants to get laid
The gauntlet is about to be thrown:
- Timmy – So typical, you can’t do it, so you mock it
- Jeff – Oh, I could do it
- Timmy – So why don’t you come on over and we will play
- Jeff – All right. We will call it America vs whatever other crappy countries play cricket
- Timmy – The rest of them
- Jeff – Are you sure you want to invite the wrath of God to your home?
- Timmy – Two words, Bring It
The Video Game encounter
Timmy destroys Jeff in the video game and struts:
- Timmy – That was a wicker googly, if I say so myself
- Jeff yells – Don’t say so yourself, say real things
- Timmy wins and struts – You are out for a duck
The Heat Is On
Jeff then makes excuses about this being a video game.
- Jeff – Playing this video game proves nothing. It is not like we are playing the actual game.
- Timmy – Wait, wait, wait, wait wait! You are saying you would beat me if we play the real game of cricket.
- Jeff – If it involves a bat and a ball and even a hint of testosterone! I win, you lose.
- Timmy – I will have you know that back home in South Africa, I was such a fast bowler that I was known as the Cape Town Express.
- Russell jumps in – Sounds like a stomach virus! ….Here is a thought Timmy. You are a dork who actually owns cricket equipment. Jeff, you are a stubborn blockhead who would actually play him.
- Jeff – I would play
- Timmy – As would I.
- Jeff – Then it is decided
- Timmy – Yes it is
- Jeff – We will take the south side and battle it like men
- Russell – Where are we gonna get the men?
The Real Game
- Jeff – What is taking him so long?
- Russell – Ironing a wrinkle out of his sweater
Then walks in Timmy in full cricket battle regalia with helmet, gloves and pads.
- Timmy growls – Lets do this
- Jeff smiles and say in English accent – Shall we then?
- Timmy – I am going to give you three chances to get a hit of me so lets play
- Timmy with his game face – You ready?
- Jeff sneers – Hit a ball with a stick, I think so
- Russell to Jeff – Dude, you are gonna get struck out by a scooter from the muppets
Three balls from Timmy; three swings from Jeff and three misses in a sort of remake of the scene from the movie “The Natural”.
- Jeff to Timmy – You were right, Cricket is a great game.
Jeff smiles and shakes Timmy’s hand.
This may be a corny episode to some. But after writing about other people of Indian origin who timidly allow their names to be feminized on national television, this show came across as a trail blazing episode. Frankly, we have never seen the likes of this on American Television. Watch this episode to see what we mean.
Kudos to Rules of Engagement and CBS. Above all, congratulations and thanks to Mr. Adhir Kalyan for showing the fighting side of the typical Indian MBA nerdish guy.
You are the man, Adhir!
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