What now, that the Olympics is over? NBC ran a two-page ad in the Inquirer this morning with little photos of all their prime-time shows, seemingly to remind us of all the stuff we missed over the past 16 days. Alas, no curling reality programs for the fall lineup.
On Sunday night, they abruptly left the closing ceremonies to rush us to "The Marriage Ref," another one of those so-called reality shows where celebrities watch people doing things and make jokes about what is happening, then suggest ways to improve their lives. Alec Baldwin is one of the panelists. The day I have to submit myself to listening to Alec Baldwin tell me what is wrong with my life is the day I will have exhausted all of my social resources. He's the one who should be the subject.
But right there, in the middle of something, Bob Costas jumped in and said:
"We're back in an hour with the Closing Ceremony party from Vancouver. Nickleback and Avril Lavigne are among the acts that will be performing. But right now we take you to the premiere of Jerry Seinfeld's new series, 'The Marriage Ref.'"
Oh boy. It was 10:30 on the east coast when they made that announcement. How many people could (a) make it through "The Marriage Ref" and (b) still had the intestinal strength to endure Avril Lavigne at midnight? Nobody in my house. And we will choose to ignore the atrocious grammar of the saintly Costas, as he started his sentence with "We're back in an hour." What does that mean? We are back in an hour or we were back in an hour? Speak English, Bob, you pompous blowhole. We will be back in an hour would have sufficed.
Meanwhile, over on CBS they were showing something called "Undercover Boss," which they describe thusly:
The new CBS reality series UNDERCOVER BOSS follows high-level chief executives as they slip anonymously into the rank and file of their companies. Each week a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.
As if they didn't know how their company ran. On Sunday night, it was White Castle's turn. Owner David Rife visited a few restaurants and tried his hand at flipping burgers and schmoozing with the help and a few supervisors. In the end, he gave one guy $5,000 for his child's education (part of which he spent at Toys R Us) and uncovered some low employee morale (at a burger joint, no kidding) and found a couple of supervisors who don't get along (shocking).
It comes off as touching and heartfelt. Big-time executives living the life of the peon and attempting to gain a better understanding of their business from the bottom up. Sure, I guess.
But the cynical side of me thinks that the company stands to benefit more than the people they are supposed to be helping. It's a grandstand effort of public relations to show people that you are trying to help your employees, most of whom are probably making less than 9 dollars an hour while the President makes 500 times that much. During an economic downturn, 60 minutes of prime network air time and a week of the President's time is well worth whatever pittance he shells out to his employees. $5,000? Really? You can't buy thirty seconds of ad time on CBS for 5-grand. Put the kid through college and we'll talk.
Check the numbers and I'd guess that on Monday, White Castle's business increased by at least 20 percent, from people who want to buy lunch at a place where "management cares." And don't think that the people at White Castle haven't already checked. I'm sure there were similar increases at 7-eleven and Hooters, whose businesses were used the past two weeks. Gee - how hard was it to get the CEO of Hooters to spend a week working with the girls? Twist his arm much?
The show tugs at your heartstrings until you realize what it really is - another TV show that manipulates your feelings and gives you the impression that things are different in "reality" world than they are in the real world. My guess is that Mr. Rife got about 3,000 e-mail's from employees at locations he didn't visit telling him that their problems are worse or that the restaurants they work in are worse than the ones he visited.
Next week they spotlight Churchill Downs. Will the horses complain? Watch your step Mr. Carstanjen.