US workers to be sacked by reality TV

Endemol has dreamt up a reality show in which workers at cash-strapped firms compete to avoid the chop.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The latest exercise in barrel-scraping from the Big Brother production company is Fox's 'Someone's Gotta Go', a show that sets itself up in a struggling small business which is being forced to make redundancies. Workers then scrap it out to keep their jobs.

If you thought Sir Alan Sugar's Apprentice was rough, with the entrepreneur pulling a nasty face, wagging a finger and ‘firing' people from his show, this certainly cranks the reality dial up several brutal notches. The 15-20 contestants will get to see the firm's books, including how much each of them earns, and then given the most ruthless of workplace appraisals: voting at the close of each show to decide which of them gets their P45.

Perhaps we should give marks to the producers for finding an idea that will tap into the mood of the times. As Endemol's North American director, David Goldberg, told Variety: ‘We're always trying to find the next thing that is topical and timely in the zeitgeist.'

Fair enough. But when Fox's president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell describes the show as a ‘story about employee empowerment,' that may be taking it a little too far for some. Indeed, it's hard to see how it will empower the unlucky losers, having not only lost their livelihoods but becoming unwitting celebrity failures in the process.

Darnell also argued it's no different from watching unemployment statistics on the news. By that logic, watching a story about binge drinking is no better than pumping a couple of teenage girls full of Hooch and encouraging them to sleep with each other's boyfriends.

The show is bound to cause an uproar, especially when the US unemployment rate stands at 8.3%, and 663,000 workers lost their jobs there last month. Some may say that Endemol risks offending a decent chunk of its audience - many of whom may be finding themselves in similar situations and may not react well to seeing job insecurities exploited.

Then again, given the state of the TV tastes these days, the producers can probably be confident of a ratings smash. For anyone happy to set aside the moral niceties, there's perhaps little more gripping than watching people playing out for their livelihoods. But it bodes badly for the future. What next from Endemol? ‘Someone's Gotta Lose Their Job, House, Wife and Kids and End It All'?


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