In what may be the definitive sign of troubled times, a new US reality TV show will track the employees of struggling small businesses as they decide which one of their colleagues will be laid off.
Donald Trump’s “you’re fired!” catch cry from The Apprentice will be given a new lease of life in the Fox network’s new reality TV show, Someone’s Gotta Go. The show will focus on recession-hit businesses with 20-30 employees, and the voyeuristic perk evident in all reality tv will manifest itself in the employees getting the chance to not only tell each other what they think of the others, but also to have a say in who gets made redundant.
Instead of the boss deciding who is fired, the company will open its books to show everyone's salaries and let the employees make the call. In an inverse to The Apprentice, instead of landing a job, the chosen one loses a job.
Fox says the laid-off worker will get a small severance, but isn't saying whether the network or producers are paying the participants in anything beyond the chance for prime-time fame.
Not surprisingly, coming at a time when many Americans are out of work, some are questioning whether the show may hit a little too close to home.
Tory Johnson, founder and chief executive of Women For Hire, which organises job fairs and advises women seeking work, told The Huffington Post that given most people who are concerned about job security or are desperate to get hired, she didn't think there was much to laugh at in terms of "watching someone else's pain and misery”.
But Mike Darnell, chief of alternative programming at Fox, said everyone who participates in the show knows fully what they are doing.
"I feel that it's part of the times that we are living in," Darnell said. "It's certainly no worse than watching the news every night and hearing all the statistics and watching what is happening. To be frank, like all these shows, if you don't want to watch, don't watch it."
Darnell said he had been working on a workplace-based show for some time, with the initial idea being to concentrate on a consultant coming in to help a dysfunctional workplace. However, he changed his mind when he saw a news report about a company where the boss couldn't decide who to lay off and left the job to his employees.
That became the basis for Someone's Gotta Go.
He envisions it as a story about employee empowerment. Many people in the workplace can relate to seeing a colleague laid off and wondered why someone else they perceived as less valuable kept their job, he added.
"Sounds like good reality television," he said. "You just described a good concept for a reality TV show."
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