The premise of the show, Under Cover Boss was in the vein of Reality television, low cost programming that would convey a sense of authenticity and distill a sense of community of interests between those on the bottom of the pecking order and the predators at the top of the totem pole. Ironically, in one of the first episodes, the company waste Management was featured; which dovetailed nicely with Thorstein Veblen and his theories of conspicuous waste as a mark of status; what we throw out and discard or just plain spend on triviality being a mark of our social status. The show earmarks this notion of social capital into a mass market package and it misses its mark by actually reinforcing the structures it is there to question.
The idea of management that is more humane and efficient smells like Stalin on an afternoon excursion to a work camp. In the end, the unfortunates at the lower strata have to accept their fate and have little to actually contribute to an understanding of operational reality. In fact, they will be the first to lose their work in the wake of technological unemployment: the uneducated, classic “unskilled labor” that can be replaced by robotics and software, a lot cheaper to operate than workers even if they appear to accept their lot.
This is a great description. ( see link at end)…
In America, physiognomy is destiny. Larry O’Donnell may change his $2000 business suit for a work uniform when he goes undercover, but he can’t change his bone structure, and a world of difference separates him from the proles down below. They have faces that look run over by a Mack Truck; they carry too much weight around; they waddle when they walk. He, on the other hand, while being no movie star, has classically symmetrical features, and a weight-to-height ratio that is what every health insurance company chart demands, along with perfect posture and a graceful gait. They have dialects; he speaks perfect mid-American English. Dress them all alike — put them all in identical business suits or identical jumpsuits — and you’d have no trouble picking the COO out of the lineup. (If the ostensible subtext of the show is to prove the democratic ideal that a CEO/COO could successfully pose as a worker-bee because we’re all basically alike, the show, based on episode one, demonstrates the opposite.) Any number of studies have indicated that people who match our society’s ideals of appearance tend to get hired faster, earn more money, and advance further in their careers, but Undercover Boss is the living proof we don’t really want to see. The real lesson of the show is that people who look and sound like Larry O’Donnell are the ones who make it to the corporate boardrooms, while people who look and sound like the Waste Management guys who clean out the porta-potties are going to be the guys who clean out the porta-potties. They haven’t got a chance…..Read More:http://tnaron.wordpress.com/category/couch-potato/page/2/
What the show does underscore is that all of television, that is programming is advertising. Undercover Boss is product placement as the premise of the show. All of television is an infomercial. This is way beyond Adorno’s culture industry. If William Burroughs can hustle for Apple and Bob Dylan shill for Cadillac, then what’s wrong with a CEO for his own employer. Its a kind of unied nations tourism where UNHRA touches down in Syria and the CEO gets to be the rebel, the non-conformist, the individualist. Like Obama’s “Hope” and “Change”. Ingeniously, the villains are the middle-class, those most likely to sniff out the scam; if only the CEO could find a way to get rid of more of those middle managers there may be some “trickle down” of the savings to the bottom. A few crumbs off the table, an odd bone to the dogs. And the middle-class is posited with the conventions of classic antisemitic overtones that they are parasitical to society and don’t do real work, just leech their living off the working class. And part of the appeal of the show is the voyeurism, this look at the “other” like Picasso’s Mademoiselles D’Avignon.
( continued) ….Those who run companies can be alpha-dog heroes, those who do the grunt work can be working-class heroes, but those in between who are charged with executing the orders down the chain of command — without whom no organization can actually work — are just jerks. Larry O’Donnell is filled with awe for the salt-of-the-earth types he meets on his odyssey, but in his encounters with their immediate bosses and supervisors, he shows nothing but contempt. They’re pond scum in his eyes (and therefore the audience’s), not capable of “really doing the work” and not capable of making the big decisions either. Before Larry went underground and learned to love the working man and woman, what do you think he would have done with any of these middle managers who failed to drive the working man and woman hard enough to hit the profit targets for their divisions that Larry had dictated? But now, because of Larry’s epiphany, they’re the show’s villains. Of course, Larry gives lip service to his having been “responsible” for some of the bad workplace rules he sees being imposed, but the bullying way he feels free to talk with the middle-managers — a tone which contrasts with the veneration in his voice when he talks with the “working folks” — tells us how he really feels (and how we’re supposed to feel).
In the cosmology of Undercover Boss, the top boss is inherently a good guy because he gets his hands dirty trying to figure out to make a better company; the workers at the bottom are inherently good guys because they’re the ones getting their hands dirty every day. It’s the folks in between for whom we’re allowed to reserve our hate. Woe be to you, American white collar guy who’s not in charge. This is a meme from movies (think William Atherton as the obstructive mid-level a-hole in Ghostbusters, among a thousand other examples before and since) which seems to run deep in American culture, and which Undercover Boss successfully carries into the world of “reality.”
At episode’s end, when Larry moves to promote, elevate, or otherwise help to self-actualize the quartet of workers he has encountered, a smell of noblesse-oblige condescension clings about the e
e enterprise. Was this about changing Waste Management into a better company, or was this just a lottery we witnessed, with four lucky winners, a 21st century take on Queen for a Day for the new economy? It was the latter.Read More:http://tnaron.wordpress.com/category/couch-potato/page/2/