One of the shows I have been DVR-ing and watching pretty regularly is CBS’s Undercover Boss.
The first show I saw had so much promise. It was the episode featuring a CEO of Hooters. When he found a manager who was mistreating his female employees, and exposed him for the misogynist he was, I thought the show had a future. Besides the fact that I would have dropped my cover and fired him on the spot, if I was the boss, it looked like the show would be interesting.
But ever since, it has gone downhill. I just don’t get much out of watching it anymore. Here’s why:
It’s too soft. They really don’t go very far to see the real company and uncover many issues. It’s clear that the locations and employees are carefully chosen to cherry-pick them. Whether it’s to show the companies in a favorable light, or they don’t want to face any liability if they show an employee in a less-then-flattering way, the show has been coming off as too feel-good.
The Bosses are lightweights. Most of the time they go in there and look like they wouldn’t last a day on the job. That’s sort of to be expected. Any employee’s first day isn’t usually much to write home about, but they are only there for a day. It would be nice to see them spend a week at one job and see if an executive could hack a real-world job.
It’s too Disneyland. At the end, the employees that the boss worked for get brought into the office for the big reveal. Sometimes, it’s funny, but usually not. Then the boss thanks them for something they taught him and rewards them with some vacation, donation to a charity, scholarship fund, or promotion that they didn’t expect. Some of the time, I wonder if they might not be worse off afterward.
One time, I thought they would actually do something that would change things for the better for all the employees. It was an episode about an airline where all the employees had taken a pay cut to keep the business running. One employee talked passionately about their sacrifice and urged the company to restore the cuts now that they were profitable again. While it was hinted that they would look into it, and the individual employee was rewarded, nothing was done.
It’s too religious. Episode after episode, we’ve heard how religious the boss or the employees are. Who cares? I’m not saying that those values shouldn’t be followed in the business world, but do we have to showcase it in the show? Shouldn’t treating people the right way be automatic, not something only tied to religion?
I want to like the show. It’s better than the bulk of reality TV we’ve been force-fed. But I’m just lacking much satisfaction once I’ve invested the hour watching it. I think there could be a lot of potential for the show to be entertaining and do good things for workplace conditions at companies at the same time. But what I’ve seen so far is just too sanitized to be real.
My last gripe is not with the show, but it’s time slot. It’s really an issue with the network not the show. As I said, I DVR it and watch it later. I really hate that it gets bumped 15-30 minutes many weeks by football games that go into overtime. Wouldn’t it be nice if the network could figure out that sometimes games go over and build a cushion into their schedules that let them get back on schedule quickly? Here’s a suggestion on how to do it: Cut commercials. Starting with the football game. Once it’s clear that the game will be running late, stop. You’ve already paid the bills, don’t pile on. After that, yes there are commercial ads that pay the bills and have to be aired contractually, but at least cut out the self-promotion. At least half of the commercials every break are freebies – they are for the network and promote other shows, usually the ones they are delaying. If they dropped that half of the commercials, they could make up at least 10-15 minutes every hour. Don’t run an ad for the program that is being delayed by the ad itself. It only infuriates the person who tuned in to see it.
I know it’s a complicated problem. There are local commercials that get inserted at certain times, but there must be a mechanism to handle the timing of it all. We’re in the 21st century, after all. We have the technology.