(Note: This post has been made an Editor's Pick on Open Salon and is on the Front Page! So be sure to check me out there and give me lots of fake accolades. Okay?)
I’ve always admired MTV’s knack for finding the most batshit crazy people on the planet to star in its reality shows. Say what you will about their music. This is the network that brought us Snookie and The Situation. I can’t stop talking about him. Girls love The Situation.
In a feat of modern casting, Jersey Shore managed to find the only six people in the world who swore they’d never fall in love at the Jersey Shore. Similarly, in Undercover Boss, CBS unearthed the only 10 CEOs in the world who have a childlike love and respect for each and every one of their employees. And for all human kind.
Are "we" the ones who are being unfair? Are all CEOs as dedicated to serving the needs of their employees as these ones are?
I’m guessing yes.
Undercover Boss, Week 1: “Gee, Whiz!”
Meet Larry O’Donnell, CEO of Waste Management.
The first thing you should know about Larry – and I can’t stress this enough – is that while he looks and talks like a wealthy CEO, he’s actually just a regular guy. How do we know this? Because his family is “the joy of his life.” So he’s just like you and me. Moving on.
Like all CEOs, Larry doesn’t want to be paid as much as he is. It’s just an unfortunate side affect, like the germ ring on quinoa. Or something equally obscure and therefore unfunny.
So, Larry’s plan to get an authentic look at his company is to pretend he’s filming a documentary, which – in addition to being a totally, totally believable alibi – shows how smart the producers of Undercover Boss are. No one would ever alter their behavior in front of a camera crew!
And here’s the hardest part: Larry can’t blow his cover. Because if he does, CBS will hunt down and kill every animal on the Endangered Species list.
Kidding. That’s what I pretended to myself so I would actually care.
Anyway, Larry is pretty excited, because “If I pull this off, I could revolutionize our processes!” Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb, Larry acquainting himself with his own company. Revolution.
My favorite part was at the beginning of the show, when Larry gathered senior management round and said, “I’ll bet you’re all are wondering what’s going on!” Well, you are being followed by the crew of Undercover Boss, so I’m guessing somebody ordered pizza.
Afterwards, there was a tense moment. Though it was accompanied by what sounded suspiciously like the “Mounting Tension in the Boardroom” music they use on Celebrity Apprentice.
And so, Larry embarked on his four day journey into the trenches – likely flanked by three days of emergency massages and foot pumicings, we can’t be sure. Remember – he can’t blow his cover. Because if he blows his cover, nothing will happen.
It might have been awkward if, like Barbara Eirenreich in Nickel and Dimed, Larry observed workers who felt unmotivated to meet the clearly impossible demands of their supervisors. Luckily, every one of Larry’s employees are workoholic martyrs who equate going “above and beyond” with being a good person. As we all should.
Larry was particularly impressed with Jacklyn, a whip-smart administrative assistant/accountant who invited Larry over for dinner at her giant house. I doubt he got any input from the producers about which employee’s house to visit. Though the cameras did beat him there.
Like I said, Larry was so impressed by Jacklyn that he almost blew his cover, and you and I wouldn’t be here. But he waited to tell them each in person. Naturally, they were all thrilled.
And the supervisor who abused the rules to punish his employees for being late coming back from lunch? CBS tapped into the anti-corporate, frothing-at-the-mouth cynicism of the American public and gave him the dreaded .... slap on the wrist. Bet he won’t try that again! Or will. Whatever.
But the important thing is that CEO Larry learned a lot. Take his breakthrough epiphany: “You know, in my role there’s a lot of policies I put out there ... and you have to live with them!" Well said, Larry.
And the employees he met? He changed their lives forever. Especially the woman who has to pee in a can while she’s on duty. Larry promised to look into that one.