Undercover B.S.

Infomercial for Capitalism Hoodwinks America, Gets Huge Ratings

By Joe Bodolai (c) 2010 All rights reserved.

The new series “Undercover Boss” on CBS is a ratings hit but a truth disaster. The show, shot in a “reality” (sic) format, follows CEOs of some of America’s most “prestigious” companies, such as Roto-Rooter, White Castle, Hooters, and 7-11, as they go “undercover” to work as an entry level employee in their own company. With a TV crew following them. Not exactly my idea of “entry level” but that’s their conceit.

The show is formulaic. Boss changes appearance, shows up acting humble, explains away TV crew, meets three hard working employees, fails miserably at menial repetitive tasks, etc. The CEO of White Castle, for example, could not manage to get the buns into the NASCAR-speed conveyor belt and sent the mini-buns into a waste bin. This leads to great laughs when he addresses his home office employees and shows the video of him failing.

7-11 CEO Shocked About Wasted Food

Often there is an issue he discovers, such as a bad customer service employee. In the epilogue, we learn that she is “no longer with the company.” The good hard working employees are summoned to head office. They worry in the limo about the reason for their surprising audience with the bigwigs. Of course, when they arrive, they are greeted by the man (so far, always a man) they thought was a new worker. He grants them favors, such as scholarships, gift cards, management training (the best was the two Hooters girls who had no idea that other women might not be down with the image… or the pantyhose under shorts which is really lame), and then a hugfest.

What the show does reveal, although not celebrate, is the mind-numbing lot of factory workers. Huge airport hanger sized factories with conveyor belts flying as they must, as minimum wage workers, second by second, hour by hour, day after day, repeat the most soul-sucking tasks such as putting simulated cheese onto tiny patties of beef byproducts. The backdrop of this reminds me of such great depictions of capitalism as Modern Times or Metropolis.

Capitalism markets itself as a way for anyone to rise up from their circumstances and the show depicts the “bosses” as compassionate, enlightened executives wanting to “make the company better.”

The truth about capitalism is that a few individuals may rise up out of their class but of course this ignores the fact that it requires a huge underclass, always acting as sperm-and-egg created robots.

UPDATE: The season finale episode included commercials from Wal-Mart that seems as if this show was designed for. The commercial depicts a “Wal-Mart driver” (probably real) who claims that by adding more items to his load he’s saving “millions of dollars” and passing the savings on in lower prices …. Um, I thought heavier loads would use more gas. If he said “now we make fewer deliveries” I’d believe they sure do save gas. I don’t exactly see how, as the commercial claims, that they’re lowering prices ”to give you a better life”.  Let’s see the spreadsheets Wal-Mart. And let’s see the comedy if Wal-Mart is featured if this informercial is picked up next season.

  1. Inky Waddleyedooskovitz
    April 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Good critique.

    What they ought to do is force the boss to live the life of his average worker for 40 days and 40 nights (Why not allude to something of biblical proportions?): take the salary, housing, neighborhood, utilities, taxes, shopping, etc. Hey buddy, you like that lifestyle? So when was the last time your workers got even a cost of living increase and the last time you got an increase? You give out incentives? And what if you got cancer? Could you afford the care? And, talk about undercover, how much sex you havin’ now that the stress is mounting more than you are? Hey wait a minute, maybe it’s better when you got less of everything else….mmmmhh…

    And what have we learned? The f’n buns are falling into the waste bin…

  2. April 6, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Brilliant comment! Thank you. You should have your own blog. You enhance mine.

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