CBS has quite the reputation for putting on some quality Reality Programming. After all, they were the first Network to take a shot at something different that resulted in this whole genre in programming with the introduction of Survivor. But for every Survivor and Amazing Race, there was a Kid Nation and a Pirate Master. (And I’m sure most of you already forgot about There Goes The Neighborhood.) Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race were all success stories because they managed to do something original in the Reality genre.
And now we have Undercover Boss. And while this is new territory for CBS, it is hardly new territory for this genre. FOX had a decent concept in Secret Millionaire, a show where rich folks donned poor man clothes before surprising their new friends with money and returning to their wealthy lives. And while this show did well in overall numbers, it didn’t in the coveted 18 – 49 demo that advertisers crave. So now I hear that ABC has picked up that show. Undercover Boss’ concept isn’t much different, only more limited as here we have a wealthy CEO going undercover in his own company looking to see what life is really like beneath the ranks.
CBS describes the concept as “a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.”
The premiere episode which follows the Super Bowl will feature Waste Management CEO Larry O’Donnell. He meets and greets folks on assembly lines and working to pick up trash, not to mention one who multitasks almost everything in a satellite office and one who cleans porta-potties. It all leads up to the usual profound revelations both in how office policies are carried out and in improving the employees lives. And I confess that it is fun meeting all of the new people and most of their personalities are endearing. But it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before although the pilot does make for some moving moments, even if we all knew they were coming.
The biggest problem I see is long term. For example, in the pilot, the presence of the cameras surrounding this “new employee” is explained by him “doing a documentary” on the organization. Well, doesn’t that pretty much take the surprise out of the actions of these employees? And if this show were to succeed, how could a boss possibly go undercover without someone figuring it all out right away. (Remember rule #1, people gossip a lot in the workplace.) Did CBS think beyond the first few episodes here? Granted, this season has already been shot but how could this be on next year? I think someone didn’t think ahead here when creating this show. I’d say CBS didn’t expect this to go beyond a season, but they did schedule this on after the SuperBowl. In the meantime, you can look forward to future episodes focusing on White Castle and Hooters. Enjoy it while you can.
Undercover Boss; Premieres Feb 7, After the Super Bowl and then will remain on Sunday nights following The Amazing Race.
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