Undercover Boss is a hour of feel-good TV in which top executives of some of the most well-known companies in the country "go undercover," working in the trenches at entry-level jobs in an effort to improve the way the company does business. In the process, they get a taste of what it's like to be on the bottom of the food chain in their company.
The premise is a good one. Upper management is often so cut off from the real work of the company, that this has got to be a helpful exercise, when done correctly. And it makes for some interesting TV. You get to see things like the President of Waste Management, Inc. sucking shit out of a porta-john, after all.
Unfortunately, the set-up and narrative of the show is so transparent that two shows into the season, I'm done with it. Here's how it works, and how it will work every week: Nice guy executive expresses sincere wish to improve the way the business works. He gathers together his cronies to make an announcement, and the editing staff tries the best they can to convey the immense shock in the boardroom (and I almost typed "bored room," if that tells you anything) over this announcement. I mean, this prince of industry is going to do menial labor?? SHOCKING!
First thing we need to do is put this guy in a budget hotel. Make sure that when he opens the door and flicks on the light that we see the expression of veiled horror over the digs he's going to occupy. Poor bastard. Have you ever seen such a purple bedspread? He's going to actually have to sleep in a place that other people have slept! People that probably never took an SAT! What a guy.
Next, make sure the President has to do some really horrifying jobs, and it's a big bonus if he sucks balls at it. In fact, make him suck so bad that he gets fired. That will be sweet at the end of the program when the executive is unveiled to the guy that fired him!
Of course, in the process, we meet our cardboard cast of characters. We have to make sure we get the hard-working poor. These are the "deserving." It works even better if they're downtrodden in some way by a middle manager that we can cast as a villian. We need a villian to dress down at the end of the show to make this working man's wet dream PERFECTION!
You know, they would almost have had me, if it wasn't for the ham-handed Hooters episode where the tearful CEO of the company lamented the fact that the Hooters brand was completely misunderstood by America. Seriously, this guy was bent out of shape that people didn't want to take their kids there, but this is hanging in the board room:
Do you seriously want to pretend that you're selling food and beer and not sex? Really?? You know what? Fuck you, Coby Brooks (CEO of Hooters). Nobody is THAT stupid. If you're really concerned that your brand is misunderstood and you aren't really selling sex, then change the uniform. Put your servers in baggy turtlenecks and sweatpants. Hire some male servers. Your meaningless action item where you form a task force to change the perception of the brand isn't fooling anyone. Even that baby in the restaurant knew it was all about the boobies. By the way, "task force" is defined as: the thing you do when you don't really want to DO anything meaningful.
After this week's episode I wanted to go riot and turn over some police cars. Producers, do you really think this show makes it all better? Send a guy out into the trenches for a week, write down some meaningless action items, and throw around a couple of vacations, and we're supposed to bend over and take your "living wage" and hardly benefits and just suck it up? I don't think so.