Television gets “Outsourced”

Outsourced

The unemployment rate remains near double digits and many Americans have simply stopped looking for work. Yet somehow an NBC sitcom about U.S. jobs going overseas is becoming a hit.

The show, called "Outsourced," revolves around an American manager running a call center in India. It's great to see a prime-time show take place somewhere other than the United States. After all, if you get all of your information about the world from network television, you might not even be able to locate Canada on a map (oh, yeah, that place just to the right of Northern Exposure).

The premise of "Outsourced" is that Todd, the American manager, is saddled with a B team of call center employees - quirky but loveable underdogs who are just struggling to get by. In other words, an American television audience is being asked to sympathize with a group of Indian workers who have jobs that Americans have recently lost. That any Americans want to watch - its average of 6.3 million viewers a week makes the show one of the top new network offerings so far this season - is remarkable.

The truth is that we're divided. There's a gulf between cosmopolitans who benefit from globalization and blue-collar workers whose wages have gone steadily downhill because of foreign competition. Some people appreciate the 24-hour customer service line, regardless of the accent of the person on the other end. Others are strictly "Buy American."

Sometimes, it's the same person who lost her job last week to a run-away factory and this week shops at Wal-Mart to save money by getting cheap shirts produced in Sri Lanka and cheap Halloween decorations made in China.

According to the consumer watchdog Public Citizen, the nation has lost about 4.9 million jobs and 43,000 factories because of free trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalization of trade relations with China.

President Barack Obama has said that he wants to eliminate tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. The president supported a bill that would have done just that--but Republicans killed the bill in the Senate.

However, Obama is leaning toward supporting trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia that the Bush administration negotiated. And he pushed through bailouts for U.S. companies without conditions that would have restricted their outsourcing of jobs.

Don't expect "Outsourced" to delve into those issues. It is a sitcom, after all.

But you can count on this TV show to humanize the people so often demonized for taking American jobs. Even the Buy America crowd can take some measure of solace when watching the show.

Except for a few framing shots, the show is filmed in Los Angeles with mostly American actors.

But director Ken Kwapis says that if the show is successful, he'll do more work on location. In a clear sign of the times, "Outsourced" itself may wind up getting outsourced.

John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus. This article was distributed by Other Words, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Photo: Scene from "Outsourced." (daemonstv.com)

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.

Comments

  • I am so glad to read a TV show review -- with a social analysis to boot! A pleasure. Thanks.

    Posted by Terrie, 11/05/2010 10:36am (4 years ago)

  • @Tom Fromde...

    "The only way we can get more higher paying jobs in our country is to develop new industries and to improve our educational system (competition not complacency) so that our schools and society can produce the inventors and entrepreneurs of the future, who will develop products and start companies that sell US products to ourselves and the rest of the world."

    Why wouldn't these new industries be offshored and outsourced like the old industries (and probably even faster, for the matter of that)?

    It's not that we "don't get it", Tom. It's that we've heard it all before.

    Oh yes, if we'll just give the companies what they want, we'll have prosperity and security once again. So we give them lower taxes, less regulation, this reform, that reform. But the promised rewards don't ever materialize, and things just keep getting worse. So then somebody comes up with yet another series of hoops for us to jump through that will surely put us on the road to prosperity: more reforms, more trade deals, more tax cuts...

    Time to call it. It's a scam.

    You think more education is the answer? I think that any education an American worker might have will always magically turn out to be the "wrong" education if the company wants to hire cheaper foreign labor instead. And they always do want that, because they'd always rather pay as little as possible and keep more profit for themselves.

    Posted by Trailer Trash, 11/03/2010 9:02pm (4 years ago)

  • You guys don't seem to get it. The show is intended to make fun of those folks who operate the call centers in other parts of the world like India and Singapore, etc. The reason companies outsource jobs is that they can make more money for those of us who invest in the stock of companies by trying to make a better retirement for ourselves. Those who run those corporations try to increase the value of those companies and their stock prices and dividends by making products cheaper or by lowering costs by using cheaper labor (in other parts of the world). The only way we can get more higher paying jobs in our country is to develop new industries and to improve our educational system (competition not complacency) so that our schools and society can produce the inventors and entrepreneurs of the future, who will develop products and start companies that sell US products to ourselves and the rest of the world. Becoming isolationists or expecting our standard of living to stay high means becoming better educated, more productive, more versatile etc. in our own lives so we can take those jobs of the future. Wishing the rest of the world away won't cut it, and expecting the gov't to bail out our pensions and support artificially high salaries doesn't help either and only delays the inevitable. The US government, past presidents and Congresses, US corporations, US teachers and adminstrators, US citizens are all to blame for forgetting to be proactive to monitor what has happened to our society in the last 30-40 years. We've not made plans to be competitive and to excel for those who can't afford to or shouldn't go to college, but should be able to get a job that can support a family without having both parents needing to work one or two jobs. That's where we've dropped the ball, and we must change.

    Posted by Tom Fromde, 11/03/2010 12:12pm (4 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments