Sunday, February 07, 2010

So... 'Undercover Boss.' Thoughts?

The way my week broke, I never got a chance to write about CBS' "Undercover Boss," which debuted after the Super Bowl. But my take is more or less in line with what Fienberg wrote, in that the show is well-made and effectively manipulative, but ultimately completely full of it.

Did you stick around after that great Super Bowl to watch? And, if so, what did you think?


Unknown said...

found it manipulative even though larry seems like a nice guy this is nothing but good pr for him and company plus whenever cameras are on people its hardly authentic. I actually found it kinda boring. That being said i bet middle america loves this and CBS has another hit, which is good cause they are severely lacking. thats sarcasm in case youre not sure

Chief said...

Good show with the potential to get old very quickly.

I have to admit I loved the middle management middle finger. That was the most heart-warming moment of all.

Trish said...

I saw the Oprah which featured two of the CEO's. Their account of the experience was great. I think if you would have seen the Oprah and then watched the show, you would have liked it better.

Weird BE said...

Hated it like I have hated few TV shows in my life. More or less, it was: "How dare you institute my policies?" Everyone hates middle management, except of course it's the most that 90 percent of America can realistically aspire to, and it's the villain? I guess most of this is colored by the understanding that nothing was changed afterward. So...that was for what again? I agree it will be a mega-hit, though.

EM said...

Was very happy to hear the CBS was going to premiere something called "Undercover Boss" after the Super Bowl. For the first time in years my Super Bowl night ended with the game, instead of stretching late into the night to see the premiere of Survivor or a supersized star-studded episode of Funny Hit Comedy. Thanks CBS.

Boricua in Texas said...

Refused to watch. Not interested in reality TV with a Corporate PR spin.

J said...

If you want us to believe the guy's getting his hands dirty, you gotta SHOW US THE POOP. Don't pixelate the poop out! We know what you are, show: This week was all poop, and the next show has Hooters waitresses snorting baked beans. It's like Fear Factor meats Extreme Makeover, it wants us to cry AND vomit.

I will tune in for the Jeff Zucker episode.

Love how Larry cradled the sanitation worker's pee can. And didn't the credits note that the intensely upbeat port-a-potty cleaner had left the company?

r said...

i am revolted by the concept.

the entire premise of the series is corporate imaging designed to paint greedy, heartless CEOs as real humans who care about their employees. if they really cared, of course, they wouldn't have laid off millions of americans to save their companies' bottom lines while accepting millions of dollars in bonuses.

a friend of mine explained that the end of the episode featured the typical schmaltz about how some wage slave making a dollar an hour above minimum wage had their demeaning job that they hate made two percent more tolerable at least until the cameras stopped rolling. how heartwarming. as recently as 2007, waste management locked out unionized employees who were protesting the unsanitary conditions created by the company in their neighborhoods.

are we meant to believe that this millionaire's life will be in any way changed by this staged and phony public relations-minded "experience?" he will continue to cash weekly checks that are probably triple what the people with whom he interacted make in a year, he'll still drive a car that no four of his employees could afford, and not one employee will cross his mind during one of his 10 weeks of paid vacation a year that he's spending on the french riviera.

were there real equitability in the world, the CEOs would be dragged into the streets and held to account for their contempt for the working class by seething mobs of those that have suffered at their hands, and their wealth distributed fairly to not only the company's employees, but also those that were laid off to make way for an extra fraction of a percent in a quarterly earnings report.

this show, those associated with its production and the network that airs it are sickening.

Rabble Rouser said...

Biggest programming mistake of all time was running the Waste Management Ep. after the Super Bowl instead of the HOOTERS EPISODE!!!! That was a frickin layup, someone should be fired for that.

I agree with everyone that it was an hour of staged, manipulative, public relations. You've got a guy on dialisis, a cancer survivor who is over-worked and about to lose her house, and a garbage woman who has the clients on her route bring her gifts and a special needs woman just happens to have a letter prepared for her saying how great she is at her job? Come on man...

All that said somehow I ended up watching the whole thing. Probably won't watch it again, would've loved to see the Hooters ep but I know I won't catch it(no dvr).

P.S. The most depressing part of this show was that when I was young I had a job picking up trash that blew out of landfill's just like what he was doing with the Dialisis guy. Man that was a crappy summer.

my name is alan and don't watch tv said...

i don't get it, alan.

all you seem to post anymore is "i am so busy i don't have time to write about television. what did you all think?"

dude. you are a television writer. but you don't have time to write about television?

what is up with that?

confused in virginia

Danny said...


Alan Sepinwall said...

what is up with that?


Lauren said...

I know it's terrible of me to write about something I haven't seen, but isn't this just "Dirty Jobs" with a new CEO every week instead of a host?

Danny said...

Dirty jobs has Mike Rowe doing dirty work every show. Sometimes he is with the working class, other times the owners, but these defitenly are not your run in the mil corporations that this show is shooting for. Also Mike Rowe isnt a CEO pretending to be a working stiff.

James Poniewozik said...

"dude. you are a television writer. but you don't have time to write about television?

"what is up with that?"

You know, just because you read this blog on a computer screen doesn't mean Alan Sepinwall is a freaking ATM. As someone who does the same kind of job, I can say that the amount of sheer output AS manages is staggering. That, plus writing regular pieces for the print edition of the paper, and having a job that requires making the time to watch far, far more shows than you ever see him write about, so as to see what there is that's worth writing about.

If you don't like Alan's criticism or choice of subjects, fine, but knocking him for productivity (ironically, in an Undercover Boss post) is pretty laughable.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was fantastic. I wish every CEO would take up this challenge as it would drastically improve the quality of most of the Fortune 500.

And yes I cannot wait to see the Hooters episode.


Adam said...

I thought that complaint was a subtle tribute to Kenan Thompson's work in "What Up With That?".

dez said...

I will tune in for the Jeff Zucker episode.

Is he really going to be on? I might watch just for the lulz if that's true.

Anonymous said...

1. His "budget" hotel room had a full size refrigerator, a microwave and a couch.

2. The reaction of his management team in the conference room. You could almost see the thought bubbles as they tried to keep their eyes from rolling ... "I will keep my mouth shut until this blows over", "doesn't he realize if we treat employees better it will impact profits", "what a clown" etc

3. If only a journalist would follow up by doing an expose on horrible conditions at Waste mgt.

4. Almost free hour-long corporate PR in primetime ... yes, this could be VERY successful (and low production costs because firms will pay for it).

Hatfield said...

James Poniewozik FTW! How someone could come here and claim Alan doesn't watch enough TV is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

If they hadn't given the whole first episode away on Oprah last week I might have watched it.

It seems like a nice limited concept but as a series not so much.

Also I just think it will turn into a knock off of Extreme Makeover Home Edition with the personal problem of the week solved by a special deal from the undercover boss.

Anonymous said...

Great Show the best ever! it was so amazing to see that Larry O'Donnell went undercover in his own company and though he was a real nice guy too.
keep up the great work for the show.

Anonymous said...

Of COURSE the show is highly manipulative, edited for maximum impact, etc. And yes, I was thinking "Man, I'll bet the folks at WM corporate are loving this."

But ... it was very entertaining, compelling TV. (O'Donnell's change in facial expression when told he'd be cleaning toilets was classic.) And just maybe, this corporation can make some positive changes in the lives of its employees that don't impinge on its profitability. Would love to see a follow-up in a year.

my name is alan and i just got fired too. boo hoo... said...

"what is up with that?


heh. i guess that is why all of you *cough* "journalists" are losing yout jobs.

yawn away, fat man. be too busy, stop writing, and lose yours too.

the world will not care.

yawn indeed...

Eyeball Wit said...

Isn't Tony Soprano in Waste Management.

Honestly, Tony's a better boss than this clown. Maybe it's because the poor shlubs at WM dont' text to, um, express their dissatisfaction with upper management in a way that Tony's crew could.