“Outsourced” was a sitcom that debuted in 2010 on NBC. It was in one of the coveted Thursday night spots on NBC made famous by shows like “Friends” and “Seinfeld”. Unfortunately, it only lasted a single season as it was not renewed by NBC. The show itself was based on a movie with the same title by John Jeffcoat. The basic premise of the movies is about a young American call center manager who is dispatched to India in order to fun the call center for a novelty company. The original film was more of a romantic comedy while the show itself played more to the funny side exploring a classic fish out of water story while looking at some of the cultural differences between Americans and Indians.
The show met controversy almost from day one and was quickly labeled racist and culturally insensitive (link, link, link). As someone who’s moved to and lived in Korea many of the “racist” jokes and “jabs” from the weird smells, adjusting to new foods and even views on sex and relationships were very relevant to me. While many people consider these things racial or cultural stereotypes they really aren’t as each culture is really different and for someone new to it it can be a shock. Before anyone labels me racist for saying that Korea smells the food is strange or the relationships are weird please understand I am Korean-American and grew up with most of it. No matter how much I love kimchi I’m honest enough to say that it is not the most fragrant of dishes and for anyone who’s ever smelled cheonggukjang (청국장) they understand that some food simply smells horrible. For those who don’t know cheonggukjang pretty much smells like someone took a crap in an open sewer and then died in it (it does taste pretty good though). Since I grew up in the culture even though I didn’t grow up in the country I was always the one in charge when taking out new teachers and I noticed the best way to break the ice about “culturally shocking things” was with a bit of humor. When taking them to eat something new like live octopus or blood sausage soup admitting that it is weird and having a laugh about it makes it easier for everyone. It is not humor based on making anyone feel bad it is based on using laughter as an ice breaker.
Don’t worry Koreans do pretty much the same thing about Americans and I’m sure every other country does it to one another. We are different and the best ice breaker is usually a good laugh about how absurd everyone really is.
Being Offended is a Good Thing
In America today so many of us are afraid of being offensive or offended. In most cases we feel like if we are not one or the other than something is wrong and since it’s better to be the one offended we look for things to bother us whether they do or not. The thing is in many cases we don’t even know why something is offensive or not and in what context. In the Western world when meeting a stranger there are some questions which we consider personal or offensive. In Korea those are generally the first questions that are asked. I often tell teachers one of the first things that are going to hit them are the questions that strangers will ask. It generally breaks down to the following.
- What’s your name?
- How old are you?
- Are you married?
- Do you have kids?
- What’s your occupation?
Questions that most people would find a bit too personal to answer if your taxi driver asks from the start, but in Korea and many other Asian countries these questions need answers in order for people to know how to speak to one another. There are different forms of grammar based on the answers in order to communicate properly. In most cases with taking offense when finding out why people are concerned about such things you can usually learn something. Getting angry and storming off leads to both sides losing out on the chance to learn something new.
On to the Main Event
So the show is basically the Office in a different story. You have Todd the manager of the call center. A young exec from the Midwest suddenly forced into life in a completely different country. He needs to adapt to a completely new country and environment while teaching his staff about the nuances about American culture through cheeseheads, whoopee cushions and novelty t-shirts. Much of the humor is what we would expect from almost any sitcom with interpersonal relationships and the confusion that comes from it. There are also eccentric characters like Rajiv the assistant manager who is willing to do anything for a promotion as well as Charlie another American call center manager in what could only be considered a “racist” stereotype of an American redneck hunter. In most cases where people consider the show racist the exact same scenarios could be played out with white American characters for the same cheap laughs.
There are several romantic plot lines involved, but one of the main themes is about the difference between love marriages and arranged marriages something still practiced in India and much of the world. Again there are cultural differences and in most cases there really is no wrong or right. Different cultures simply evolve different ways of approaching the same problem. There are plenty of characters with side stories that showcase the traits and relationships in a fun way.
“Outsourced” tackles some touchy subjects such as the outsourcing of American jobs and cultural differences, but always remains a lighthearted comedy with likable characters. It is disappointing that the show only lasted one season as there were still many story lines that were never wrapped up.
Episodes to Keep an Eye On
Episode 9 “Temporary Monsanity”
Todd tries to meet a sales goal to satisfy his parents who don’t really understand him and underestimate him. He tries to show off by driving his employees to work harder, and realizes that that is not who he is. His employees with their own cultural view on things understand how difficult it is to satisfy parental expectations and drive themselves to help out.
Episode 10 “Homesick to My Stomach”
Todd gets homesick when he realizes how hard it is to keep up with football. Growing up in a Korean household the love for football still escapes me. It’s a great episode because it shows power of homesickness and also the point where you realize that you are now home. BTW I miss good street food.
Episode 17 “Todd’s Holi War”
Just a fun romp of an episode that follows “Community” in the love of a good paintball fight.
Episode 21 and 22 “Rajiv Ties the Baraat Parts 1 and 2”
The end of the season and unfortunately the show. It ties up a few loose ends and leaves the series open for a second season that unfortunately didn’t happen.
If you haven’t had the chance to see “Outsourced” I would recommend checking it out (link). Since it’s only a single season sitcom it’s an easy binge watch and if you can stop yourself from being “offended” by looking at people only by their race all of the characters have a certain charm and the relationships formed are enjoyable. Considering now in 2017 how people view the idea of outsourcing, diversity and different races and cultures the show is able to tackle the issues with a smile and charm.
Originally posted 2017-02-02 21:21:55.