As many of you may be aware, I spent a few weeks in India during the summer of 2007. My husband and I went to Mumbai, India on a short-term assignment for the company where we both worked at the time. The whole experience was eye-opening, life-changing, and whatever other cliche you can think of that might describe such an adventure. Nothing went quite as we planned (nor, I’m sure, as the company had planned either), but even though I long harbored some bitterness over the way things went astray, I remain glad that we went.
But I digress. The purpose of today’s post is to dissect NBC’s new show “Outsourced.” As advertising for the show began to appear, friends & family began commenting to me about it, wondering what I thought, given the experience I had in India myself. Well, it’s impossible to tell whether you’ll like a show just by watching the commercials; so we thought we’d give it a try. We didn’t even make it through a full episode. Now, you must understand I am not a professional critic. I don’t know diddly-squat about most of the crap that critics seem to care about, and I prefer it that way. The only thing that determines quality to me is whether or not I was entertained. But watching Outsourced was painful. I recognize that sometimes entertainment requires a certain suspension of disbelief. However, the whole time I watched, I was overcome with disbelief. I could not believe the people at NBC sat down to this program and said “This is funny! Let’s start it on Thursday!”
I learned recently that the show was actually based on a movie; I haven’t seen it, so I have no idea how they compare. All I know is that I hated the show. We didn’t even make it through 2 commercial breaks. At the request of a friend, I will ennumerate some of the things in the show that made me scoff.
(1) Let’s just look at the premise for just a moment; a company suddenly fires their entire call center staff while the manager is at a two-week training session & outsources the whole thing to India. So they send him to India to manage the new, outsourced call center. The next day. Anyone who’s ever worked in business knows that nothing ever happens that fast in business, unless someone is going OUT of business.
(2) How did they get all his paperwork processed so quickly? Getting a passport can take weeks or even months; having a work visa application processed is not quick or easy, even if it’s expedited. It took so long to get ours that we actually worried we would have to visit our regional Visa Office in Chicago to collect our visas on the way to Mumbai. (As it happens, this wasn’t necessary because our trip was postponed at the last minute- literally).
(2) Who’s answering the phone lines during the transition? Even assuming the manager already had a passport & work visa (extremely unlikely to say the least), it would’ve taken him at least 18 hours to get to India. And they didn’t start answering the phones right away, either, so who knows how long the company went without operators. It’s impossible to believe a catalog company could stay in business without anyone to take the orders.
(3) Todd is pictured riding in an auto-rickshaw on a busy road (with an obvious green-screen aura around his head). The vehicles were moving impossibly fast- I don’t think a vehicle I rode in went over 15 miles an hour; there’s simply too much traffic. Cars, rickshaws, trucks, and motorcycles are crammed into every possible space, constantly changing lanes trying to get there faster, sometimes even driving in the oncoming lane to get ahead of stopped traffic. It’s complete chaos, yet amazingly I only saw evidence of one accident the whole time I was there- a smashed up vehicle on the back of a tow truck. Also, I’m pretty sure I never heard a horn once during that entire sequence; the sound of horns beeping in Mumbai is inescapable. We once stood at an intersection and recorded the sound for a half a minute; I think we lost count after 20 horns. And don’t even get me started on the smell- I think the writers of the show missed out on a golden opportunity by not making a joke about the aroma of metropolitan India.
(4) He arrives in the office to meet his team, who haven’t even been properly trained on the product line they would be selling- they had never even seen the catalog, which is actually loaded with items which would be considered extremely inappropriate and/or offensive in India.
(5) The call center is supposedly located on the ground floor of its building, with massive picture windows so you can see activity on the streets. That strikes me as odd in itself, but I’ll ignore that. The bigger flaw with this setup is that you can clearly see it is daytime. In case you don’t know, India is nearly 12 hours ahead of the United States (depending of course on your time zone). Assuming a 12-hour time difference and a standard 9-5 shift, this means the call center is only available to US customers from approximately 9pm-5am. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is preposterous.
(6) In general, the clothing worn by the employees in the India call center was far too casual. Some of it was actually downright inappropriate (skirts too short, necklines too low, etc).
(7) This guy seriously went his whole life without ever having Indian food, even after learning he was going to be moving to India to manage a call center? Wouldn’t you want to know what you were getting into?
I could go on, but I think I will just stop there because I have already wasted enough of my time on Outsourced. Suffice it to say, I hated the program. I wonder whether anyone involved in writing the program has ever been to India, or whether they had any consultants on set to say things like “that doesn’t work”. Or if there were, did anyone listen to them?