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September 26, 2010

I was so excited for the premiere of the new tv show Outsourced and was absolutely bummed when my son’s back to school night was scheduled for the same night. Honestly, you would think the school administration would be a little more sensitive to my tv viewing preferences and be a little more careful to not create conflicts between my parenting and entertainment priorities. But no – they weren’tΒ  – Outsourced aired right in the middle of my session of 8th grade math. Hpmf.

But the techno gods have been generous and blessed us with tivo capabilities. So, all is in sync in the parenting and hollywood worlds.

Last night, I finally got to see Outsourced – the new NBC comedy about an American manager running a call center in India. Frankly, they should have outsourced the production, writing, and editing. Blech. Let’s remember that I did offer my assistance. They should have taken me up on it. Who knows, maybe they still will. πŸ˜‰ The Executive Producers are Robert Borden, Ken Kwapis, Victor Nelli, Jr., Tom Gorai, and David Skinner – just in case you are reading along fellows, you can contact me at AReasonToWrite (at) gmail (dot) com.

There wasn’t much about it that was realistic – even worse, there wasn’t much that was funny. And yes, I understand you are supposed to suspend reality and just laugh. But I just spent the past year and a half of my life living it and there is a lot that has laugh potential without being insulting. A lot. There is the line at the post office and the puja and oh, so much more.

I am not always great with chronology so I might not get my complaints in exact order but it doesn’t really matter.

The first big misstep was that the American manager went to work in a rickshaw. Beyond the fact that the rickshaw scene was very poorly done, an outsourced manager in India would very likely be driven to work by a driver. They just ruled out about 3 hilarious episodes by leaving out the driver and his very real side (splitting) story. Having a driver in India is part of the experience and it adds a whole new dimension to life abroad. It is so foreign to the way most Americans navigate through their day in the U.S. Maybe the manager should have tried to drive himself somewhere – now that would be funny. Very funny. Or try to communicate with a driver whose English is not exactly up to snuff – like here. Or try to find the zoo – like here.

However, my biggest criticism is the Outsourced character of the big Sikh guy who just looks intimidating and totally ticked off. Too easy. It’s (horrible) stereotyping. It’s ridiculous. And based on the Sikhs I met, it’s largely inaccurate. Many are actually gentle giants in many respects. Their temples all have kitchens and they feed absolutely anyone in need for free. I wrote about the Golden Temple here, where they feed over 100,000 people a day.

And then a cow appeared in the front office window. Really? A cow? That’s all you’ve got? Sure, cows roam the streets – but really? Again, way too easy. They should have at least made it a monkey (more realistic in front of an office window) or a camel or an elephant. At least that would have been unexpected. And not to be nit-picky but the cow in the window was way too fat.

On to the minor inaccuracies. All the desks are lovely, spread out, and nicely decorated with picture frames. Yeah. Not gonna happen. Call centers operate on shifts. And for obvious reasons, they try to get as many people in a room as they can (just like in U.S. offices). In the real world, two to three workers would rotate sitting at a desk during a 24-hour period. So there would be no personalizing your workspace. And it is highly unlikely that the boss would be sitting in the same room as the call center employees.

The Indian manager was wearing suspenders. I don’t think I ever saw an Indian man in India in a set of suspenders – I am not saying it didn’t happen – but I call malarkey. Or at least bad editing.

The company in the tv show sells novelty items – some of which are a bit risque. My experience with Indians is that they are very modest people. At one point in the show, the American manager is explaining the “value” of a mistletoe belt to the staff at the call center. How it works – why you would put mistletoe on a belt. Yeah, that would be totally inappropriate and awkward. Later in the episode, he shows the staff a plaque with a replica of a woman’s chest (read boobs) on it that jingles when a song is played. Maybe it was called Jingle Boobs – I had mostly tuned out at that point, so I probably didn’t get the name right. But please. A female employee at the call center laughs at the novelty item. I just really have a hard time believing that would be a typical response. Even most American women would not exactly be amused.

If it was Al and Peggy Bundy get Outsourced, it might have been chuckle-worthy. But it wasn’t about Married with Children hits India and it wasn’t funny.

The one thing that was funny was the food in the cafeteria but only because they made another (way too) easy joke about what we used to call Delhi Belly. When you are not used to spicy foods, you do have to be careful what you eat – and of course that is true of anywhere – not just in India. And some Indian food is super spicy and it can upset your belly. And it can be funny – when it happens to someone else – and someone else who knows better and laughs when they put it in his/her mouth and jokes “what’s the worst that can happen?”. That is what I call “famous last words”. Which are often followed by Montezuma’s Revenge and a quick re-enactment of the fabled Murphy’s Law.

So, for what it’s worth (and I realize that is nothing), I was left very unimpressed. I do, however, remain very willing to offer ideas and suggestions. πŸ˜‰

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2010 7:39 am

    Hey! First of, let me start with a compliment to break the ice. You write very well. There should be no reason necessary for you to write.
    I hope you don’t mind that I mentioned this blog in my own here:

    You will see that I take the show more light-heartedly. Well, I guess the audience is not the expat living in India, it is the average American (otherwise, how to keep the ratings up – not enough Americans here who get CNBC). So that’s my excuse why the humour is… well… less nuanced. Nevertheless, I find that some of the touches are really good. One of the examples I gave is the bed that Rajiv sleeps in. I recognize it because I am writing this to you from the same model bed. So some of it really is India. Let’s just hope it improves over time, when they have to go into more depth in the story.

    • October 11, 2010 8:09 am

      Thanks for writing and linking back to this post. I just watch the show and repeat “that would never happen” way too many times. πŸ˜‰ But yet I have tuned in every week. I am still holding out hope.

      • October 11, 2010 1:55 pm

        Maybe, just maybe, you see the entertainment quality in it as well πŸ™‚ Let’s hope.

  2. chris permalink
    September 29, 2010 12:23 pm

    Funny you should mentioned Married with Children. You see, MwC has a cult-following amongst Indians in the USA. I’ve thought long and hard about this one, and I think I have figured out why this is so :

    You see, it was Uncle Al Bundy that got me and my fellow-Indian buddies through the rigors of Grad School in the US. Without Uncle Al, no way, no how, would I be a Ph.D. in Engineering today.

    You’d come home late at night from the engineering-department, having put in a solid 15 hours of work, but all bent out of shape, because your latest and most promising engineering-idea turned out to be a dud, and totally fizzled out, much like the ideas before it, thus taking along with it your hopes of earning an early Ph.D.

    Not to worry. Crawl home to the apartment, cook yourself some Maggi noodles, slosh the Maggi ketchup onto the Maggi noodles, turn on the TV, adjust the rabbit-ears ( Indian grad-students don’t pay for cable-TV ), pour yourself a Coke, and sit back — and soon enough, Uncle Al would waft across over the TV-waves, and, along with Peg, Kelly, Bud and Buck Bundy, would soothe away your worries. Half an hour later : Grad-school-induced brain-freeze ? All gone! And oh, did I mention, damn, that Kelly Bundy fine !

    Tomorrow ? Now, that would be another day, and a fresh new engineering-idea/theory.

    And that, boys and girls, is how we got through Grad School.

    And that’s why Indians in the US vote across party-lines and say ” Al for President ! “

    • September 30, 2010 9:57 am

      Thanks Chris for sharing that – it really made me laugh. Who knew that the Bundys would have cross-cultural appeal! It’s almost as funny as someone with a PHD in Engineering reading my blog! I guess something had to take over for MWC πŸ˜‰

  3. avs permalink
    September 26, 2010 11:54 pm

    the tv show might not be impressive but surely your post is.

    • September 27, 2010 6:18 am

      hey there – long time no comment – how ya been? The show was awful but I am glad you are back.

  4. poupee97 permalink
    September 26, 2010 11:16 pm

    Nice read! You are so right – a rickshaw!?!? Which city is this supposed to be set in? In Calcutta that might be mildly just-about possible, but nowhere else.
    What was that about a mistletoe belt???

    • September 27, 2010 6:17 am

      Yeah – that scene almost made me turn the tv off. I wondered what city it was supposed to be too. The rickshaws were Delhi’s colored rickshaws – I know Mumbai’s are a different color – but I am not sure where it was supposed to be. You don’t even want to know about the mistletoe belt. It was ludicrous!

      • poupee97 permalink
        September 27, 2010 6:31 am

        Yes, I do! Now I really want to know…

  5. Stefanie permalink
    September 26, 2010 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the review. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV and am glad you saved me the trouble with this one. I must say, that the writers should take a few lessons from you. You have managed to make some of the most mundane things hilarious. Keep it up.

  6. September 26, 2010 2:19 pm

    My sentiments exactly! I felt exactly the same watching the episode.

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