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TV Tonight: Does Someone Have to Go?

The answer is: Yes, whoever signed the office up for this sleazy show. The problem is: that ain't gonna happen.

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Chris Tomko/FOX

The premise for an awful reality show and the premise for an excellent reality show are one and the same. A strong reality premise—strand people on an island, race around the world—is what gets your attention. But what makes it mean-spirited or good-hearted, excruciating or delightful, sleazy or gratifying, is the execution.

Protestors drove ABC’s Welcome to the Neighborhood off the air in 2005 before it ever debuted, because of the premise (seven couples, including minorities, competed to win a house and were judged by their future neighbors); later, after actually seeing all the episodes, gay-rights-advocacy group GLAAD endorsed it. Spike TV’s The Joe Schmo Show–which surrounded a “contestant” with actors–could have been a cruel joke; it turned out to be a pitch-perfect and good-natured parody.

All of this is to say that, despite its premise, I went into Does Someone Have to Go?—Fox’s new reality show in which coworkers select some of their number for possible firing—assuming that it might not be as bad as you would think.

As it turns out, Does Someone Have to Go? is exactly bad as you would think.

Now admittedly, the title itself was a pretty good hint that this show was not going to take the high road when it came to conflict resolution in the workplace. The series visits a string of troubled workplaces, promising to “give employees a voice” in solving the office’s problems—by confronting one another, blaming one another for the dysfunction, and voting for three candidates for possible elimination.

You could probably make a good reality show about visiting a workplace, identifying what and who isn’t working, and forcing some sort of crisis to make clear what the group needs to do better: that’s essentially what, say, Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant: Impossible does in the food-service business. Those shows can be overdramatic or manipulated, but when they work—see, for instance, the absolutely bananas “Amy’s Baking Company” episode of Kitchen Nightmares–they can be revealing snapshots of how a bad workplace gets that way, and how individual neurosis becomes everyone’s problem.

The problem with Does Someone Have to Go? is in its founding ideas and assumptions. I’m just going to quote Fox’s description here: “Almost every office across the country has some level of dysfunction, which often can be attributed to just a few select individuals – those co-workers who might be viewed as anything from lazy to incompetent to quite simply having a toxic personality that poisons the entire workplace.”

In other words, if something’s wrong where you work, the problem isn’t management—God forbid—it’s you, or one of your shiftless coworkers. So go find a scapegoat! To help in that pursuit, the show prods sores by having employees badmouth each other in private interviews—which it then shares publicly—and revealing every participating worker’s salary.

It’s the crabs-in-a-barrel philosophy of management: whip up ill will, stir up resentment, and then set the employees out to pull down people who have risen slightly higher from the bottom. In the first episode (part one of a two-parter), credit-card-processing company Velocity Merchant Services opens itself up to the cameras. In short order, the staff have been reduced to reality-cliche shorthand (one talks too much, one is a pushy jerk, one is a slacker), but a wider issue surfaces: several employees are members of the owners’ family, and may be getting paid too much for too little work, with impunity.

Now, maybe there’s an interesting problem here: there’s at least the suggestion that the owners of VMS, in hiring family members, are showing favoritism and ill-using the company’s resources. That’s a problem, and possibly a failing of the bosses–but they’ve been taken out of the equation. No one’s going to fire them. They’re not going lose anything, except that a relative might be fired. Though, as the show at least acknowledges, who wants to fire the boss’ mom at risk of getting canned yourself when the cameras leave? At worst, their “punishment” is that they get to reduce payroll, and have their underlings take the blame for it.

(Does that happen? In the next episode, we’ll get to see the bottom-three employees—each of whom makes less, usually much less, than six figures—plead for their actual livelihoods on television. So, yeah, that promises to be all kinds of fun.)

The obvious comparison for Does Someone Have to Go? is CBS‘s Undercover Boss, and it’s true that, depending how a particular episode plays out, that show can essentially be millions of dollars’ worth of free PR for a corporation. But Boss at least operates from the assumption that the person running a company might be out of touch, might have made mistakes, might have something to learn. In the world of Does Someone Have to Go?, somehow the biggest problems are the people with the least power and influence.

In reality, the proper answer to Does Someone Have to Go? is, “Yes, whoever signed the company up for this sleazeball reality show.” The real dysfunction here is, that’s never gonna happen.

8 comments
cocobinay
cocobinay

Reality shows are the modern version of the old sadistic public spectacles, which turned the hurt and pain of others into entertainment. Their proliferation, one awful show after another, certainly indicates that there's a market for them.

These are signs of a civilization in decline; the celebration of its own weaknesses!!

DawnSmith
DawnSmith

It's like a bad accident... you don't want to look but you have to. I'm watching part 2 and missed part 1. Terrible show. It makes me feel every terrible emotion I've ever had in a bad work environment. Shame on the owner and on Fox for thinking people would watch this.

MichaelWalker
MichaelWalker

I agree with lucyloo, this is the next to the last that I'm watching this so. It will only be satisfying if one of the owner's family members get fired who has the second to the highest salary and apparently does the least amount of work. Here's something else about the show that seriously irked the hell out of me. Did anyone else notice the number of commercials?? Seriously, there was only 36 minutes of program and 24 minutes of commercials. With the exception of the first 8 minutes, it was five minutes of show followed by five minutes of commercials. I'll wait for the second episode to come out on YouTube and then I'm done with this dumb show.

DeeEnko
DeeEnko

@MichaelWalkerThe episode length are the same as all other tv shows.  If you go to the website to watch the episodes it shows how long they are - anywhere from 41 to 43 minutes.

I thought the show was fine.  It is what it is - a reality show.  The two job sites I watched (two episodes each), it seemed that the final result did end up helping.  The boss is usually the least aware of what really goes on so why not give the power to the people?  Most jobs that I've had (before I ventured out on my own much because of the people who were getting away with not doing their job properly, sometimes being overpaid on top of it) my coworkers and I would have loved to be given the opportunity to get rid of the dead weight who usually were only good at manipulating/fooling the person at the top.  

GuySmiley11
GuySmiley11

Completely disgusting show, with no redeeming value whatsoever. I think they should take the premise to the group of people at fox who gave it the go ahead, and have one of them fired.

The show is mean and cruel and nasty.

lucyloo1and2
lucyloo1and2 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I just watched this show for the next to the last time. I want to see who gets fired and I'm forced to waite untill next week. I will not watch this show after that. It's like one of those terrible end of the season cliff hangers. I hate them! It looks like next week will be viewers get to watch the bottom three go thru hell worried about losing their jobs and faceing a serious financial crisis. I'm sorry but I don't find that entertaining. I do however, think the owner's mother should take a serious pay cut and the money be given to other employees. She came off as very arrogant and enjoys throwing her status in the other employees faces. I will record the episode and fast forward to the outcome then I'm done with it!

redconvoy
redconvoy

This was an awful show.  I feel that people's privacy in that company was violated as well as some federal laws revealing people's personal information like that.  Also, interviewing people about other co-workers was a nasty tactic within itself and now the show is doomed to be cancelled because of it.  Who will be honest about their co-workers after that?  I think the CEO of the company should have the brass to decide who stays and who leaves so her company will flourish better.  I don't see a second season with this. 

IPFletcher
IPFletcher

Wow- I hadn't even heard about this one. Still wish I hadn't. For reasons I don't watch much TV during the summer, see the article above.