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For anyone who has ever thought the boss doesn’t have a clue about what it’s like to work on the lower rungs of the company ladder, here’s proof that you’re right.
In CBS’ “Undercover Boss,” leaders of big corporations take short turns at entry-level jobs to see whether they can learn something that will improve working conditions or, at the very least, reward overlooked hard workers.
Despite an initial order of just 10 episodes, CBS must see big potential in this feel-good valentine to corporate America. Networks think long and hard before they select a show to lead out of the Super Bowl, as this one will do Sunday.
If one can get past the certainty that, like most reality shows, the reality here has been sanitized for everyone’s protection, one should enjoy meeting these salt-of-the-earth workers with good hearts, the kind of people who normally are everywhere except on TV.
The premiere kicks off with Larry O’Donnell, president and COO of Waste Management, an industry giant with gloved tentacles that reach into nearly every form of refuse. Over the course of seven days, O’Donnell tries his hand at five jobs, including riding a garbage truck and vacuuming out the contents of portable potties.
At each and every stop, he becomes fast friends with a loyal and hardworking grunt. One fires him after he repeatedly fails to pick up stray papers at a landfill. Another invites him home for a family dinner. There isn’t a slacker or complainer in the bunch.
Did Waste Management corner the market on industrious, kindly souls? Possibly, but don’t underestimate the impact of an omnipresent camera crew.
Company employees were told the crew was filming a documentary or small TV show on trying out for entry-level jobs. Even if the employees swallowed that explanation, they’d have to be in full self-destruct mode to carp about their employer while facing the business end of a video camera held by strangers.
During an appearance at the winter press tour, creator and executive producer Stephen Lambert said the featured company does not have a say in the final edit. Also, no one gets fired as a result of the undercover work. Still, Lambert, who produced “Secret Millionaire,” a show with a similar concept, is smart enough to know that corporate doors will slam shut if he trashes Waste Management or any other company. (Upcoming episodes, scheduled for 9 p.m. Sundays, feature White Castle, 7-Eleven and Hooters.)
Airdate: 10:30-11:30 p.m. (following the Super Bowl), Sunday, Feb. 7 (CBS)
Production: Studio Lambert
Announcer: Mark Keller
Executive producers: Stephen Lambert, Stef Wagstaffe, Eli Holzman
Executive in charge of production: Annie Meek
Field producer: Rachelle Mendez
Line producer: Kevin Lillestol
Supervising producer: Alex Weresow
Supervising story producer: Audra Woodruff
Creator: Stephen Lambert
Directors: Phil Lott, Catherine Pappas
Director of photography: John S. Meyer
Production manager: Jeff Shapiro
Editor: Courtney Smith
Music: David Vanacore Music
Casting: Michelle Mock-Falcon
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