Barrack and Michelle Obama’s Film Company Higher Ground continues its successful relationship with Netflix in their latest docuseries, Working: What We All Do. Caroline Suh directs the four-part series. At the forefront are the questions, What brings you joy in work? What gives you purpose? What makes a good job good?
Working: What We All Do is an engaging documentary series that delves into how we derive purpose from our work and how our challenges and triumphs unite us. The series includes former President Obama’s narration and focuses on the experiences of individuals from different industries and roles, such as service jobs, tech, hospitality, and corporate management. The show features real people in their everyday lives at home and at work.
As a college student, Obama found inspiration in Studs Terkel’s 1974 book Working, revolutionizing the conversation around work by asking ordinary people what they did all day. The series brings this idea into the modern world by offering intimate, behind-the-scenes portraits of people’s lives and giving viewers a new understanding of and appreciation for the jobs they do each day.
The first episode carries the title “Service Jobs” and introduces the audience to two moms in dire situations and then to a hotel staff facing the woes of automation. This episode was a great way to kick off the series, as the issues occur daily.
Episode 2 bears the title “The Middle” and brings a Dr. Maya Angelu quote to mind. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. We meet a gentleman living paycheck to paycheck as he chases his music dreams. We then meet a supervisor dealing with low wages, which affects his retention abilities.
Episode 3 carries the title “Dream Jobs” and made me think of the words of Israelmore Ayivor. He once said, “Most of the dreams that have suffered to death were murdered by their own owner. In this episode, we meet a young dad who thinks about work when he’s off work and builds bonds with his co-workers outside of the office. We also meet a lobbyist fighting an uphill battle against the caregiving industry.
Finally, Episode 4 brings Boses into play, focusing on the founder of a home care company taking lower pay to pay her employees more. Rick Ross said it best “A boss is all about good business .”We also meet a CEO who has driverless trucks that he knows will take away jobs from the blue-collar worker. I liked ending the series this way because it may inspire folks to acquire new skills to survive in the coming years.
Seeing Barrack Obama throughout the series reminded me of his naturally inspiring demeanor. Hopefully, when the credits roll, you will be reminded, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
Final Grade: B+
Working: What We All Do premieres globally on Netflix on May 17, 2023
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