NBC's Outsourced' Comedy: Goofiness with a Message

Don Tennant

As I write this, I just finished watching the series premier of "Outsourced," the NBC sitcom that was causing so much angst and consternation months before it even aired that the show itself was kind of anticlimactic. It was also absolutely hilarious.


In a post I wrote back in July, "Reaction to Outsourced' Sitcom Would Disappoint Our Forebears," I lamented the fact that so many of us have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves, and I drew this conclusion:

All of the hand-wringing over this show about offshore outsourcing is troubling. It bespeaks the emergence of a communal lack of self-confidence, resiliency and perseverance that have defined the character of this country for more than two centuries. We've allowed a natural economic shift to beat us down, when far worse circumstances failed to intimidate our forebears. They would no doubt be disappointed, and not by the executives at NBC.

Not surprisingly, that post drew a lot of negative reader commentary, including the requisite charges of a massive conspiracy against U.S. workers:

The fact that a show like this would surface at all means the insurgency has the globalists and India, Inc. on the run. Americans are waking up to the India, Inc./globalization fraud and the mainstream media is in a panic. You can bet someone from India had a hand in its creation. No doubt foreign lobbying group NASSCOM wanted to get further control of our media and called up the execs @ NBC and said "Hey, how about a show where we make fun of American workers and hype India. WE'LL PAY YOU". That's the way the NASSCOMs and Tatas of the world operate.


No doubt the show will depict all American workers as silly and stupid and all Indian workers as super-brilliant geniuses. This despite the fact that up until 1998 IT was 98% white American males and the fact that India has no native operating system, or applications. But that's ok -- let them continue with the propaganda.

It's probably safe to assume that this reader didn't watch the show. If he had, he would have seen just how wrong his uninformed presumption was. The show is about a Kansas City novelties company that outsources its call center to India, and sends a manager, Todd Dempsy (played by Ben Rappaport), there to run the operation. The Indian call-center employees are anything but "super-brilliant geniuses," although the actors who portray a couple of them might be accused of being comedic geniuses.


There are plenty of cheap laughs, but they're at the expense of all concerned-from the goofy Indian employees to the goofy American company that sells products like fake vomit and blood pools. It's simply a show with an immature brand of humor that goofy people like me laugh at, not the calculated, orchestrated twist of some anti-American dagger.


All of that said, the show did offer at least one takeaway that warranted pondering rather than laughter.


Not far into the show, when the Todd Dempsy character went to the cafeteria for lunch for the first time, he joined another American-a call-center manager from another company who was sitting alone at a table. He was eating the all-American lunch he had brought from home, and he warned Todd about the gastric price he would pay if he ate the local fare.


The final scene also opened in the cafeteria, with Todd holding his tray of Indian food. He glanced at the other American manager sitting alone at a table, then he looked over at a big table filled with the employees from his call center, one of whom motioned for him to join them. He did just that, clearly enjoying the camaraderie that was already developing.


That scene reminded me of a more recent post: "Be a Better Manager: Embed Yourself in a Foreign Culture." In that post, I wrote about research that found that expatriates who immerse themselves in the local culture tend to be more creative-and, by extension, better managers-than those who don't.


A show that can be funny and reinforce an uplifting message of multiculturalism all at the same time can't be all bad. If you're going to bash it, at the very least find out what it is you're bashing.

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