Undercover Boss (U.S. TV series)
|Created by||Stephen Lambert|
|Based on||Undercover Boss (franchise)|
|Narrated by||Mark Keller|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||74 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Studio Lambert|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Original run||February 7, 2010– present|
Undercover Boss is an American reality television series, based on the British series of the same name and produced by Studio Lambert in both countries. Each episode depicts a person who has a high management position at a major business, deciding to become undercover as an entry-level employee to discover the faults in the company. The first series consisted of nine episodes produced in 2009 and first aired on February 7, 2010, on CBS. Companies that appear on the series are assured that the show will not damage their corporate brand.
The first episode premiered on February 7, 2010 after Super Bowl XLIV and featured Larry O'Donnell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Waste Management, Inc. The series was a ratings success for the network, with its premiere episode receiving 38.6 million viewers and a share of 32 percent. The first season was the most popular new show in any genre in the 2009–10 television season with an average audience of 17.7 million viewers.
On March 9, 2010, CBS announced it had commissioned Undercover Boss for a second season. On July 28, CBS announced four company executives had signed up for the second season, from NASCAR, DirecTV, Chiquita Brands International, and Great Wolf Lodge, Inc. The second season opener featured the Choice Hotels CEO, Steve Joyce on September 26, 2010. The season two premiere drew 11.02 million, down 27.58 million from the previous seasons premiere, and with a 9.55% share, the episode ranked number 2 against its major competition consisting of Sunday Night Football on NBC and Brothers & Sisters on ABC. The second season averaged 12.158 million viewers and the third season, which saw the show move from Sunday to the less popular Friday night, attracted an average of 9.347 million viewers. CBS ordered a fourth season in March 2012 and a fifth season was confirmed in March 2013.
Reruns of Undercover Boss have been picked up by TLC and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Broadcasts on TLC began on July 25, 2011, initially Mondays at 8PM ET, later moving to Thursdays at 9PM ET. OWN has also broadcast repeats of Undercover Boss since the fall of 2011.
Each episode features a high-positioned executive or the owner of a corporation going undercover as an entry-level employee in their own company. The executive changes appearance and assumes an alias and fictional back-story. The fictitious explanation for the accompanying camera crew is that the executive is being filmed as part of a documentary about entry-level workers in a particular industry. They spend approximately one week undercover, working in various areas of the company's operations, with a different job and in most cases a different location each day. The boss is exposed to a series of predicaments with amusing results and invariably spends time getting to know selected company employees, learning about their professional and personal challenges.
At the end of the undercover week, the boss returns to his or her true identity and calls in the selected employees to the corporate headquarters. The boss rewards hardworking employees through campaign, promotion or financial rewards. Other employees are given training or better working conditions.
The show's producers determine what companies will be featured, what jobs the bosses will do, and which employees and which situations will be shown. The company has no control over what airs, although a promise is made the companies' reputations will not be hurt. Neither the company nor its executive receive money from, or give money to, CBS or the show's producers.
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|1||9||February 7, 2010||April 11, 2010|
|2||22||September 26, 2010||May 1, 2011|
|3||13||January 15, 2012||May 11, 2012|
|4||17||November 2, 2012||May 17, 2013|
|5||15||September 27, 2013||March 14, 2014|
CBS's premiere of Undercover Boss on February 7, 2010, immediately following the network's coverage of Super Bowl XLIV, delivered 38.6 million viewers—the largest audience ever for a new series following the Super Bowl since the advent of people meters in 1987, the largest audience ever to watch the premiere episode of a reality series, the most watched new series premiere overall on television since Dolly on September 27, 1987 (39.47 million), and the third largest post-Super Bowl audience behind Friends Special on January 28, 1996 and Survivor: The Australian Outback on January 28, 2001.
Undercover Boss received mixed reviews; most held good words for the opening episode, but some criticized elements of the show's format. The New York Daily News praised the concept as "simple and brilliant" and "an hour of feel-good television for underappreciated workers." Reviewers with the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times complimented the opening episode, although the latter had reservations on Waste Management, Inc COO Lawrence O’Donnell III's plan to create a task force to address the problems he found: "Larry’s plans to reform his company and humanize the workplace seem great, until he starts to order up committees to study what he has learned. So many good intentions have gone to die in task forces, off-site meetings and mentoring programs." "The show is a welcome change from reality concepts based on humiliating people," concluded the Wall Street Journal. "It is emotionally stirring, with catharsis and messages of virtue rewarded and lessons learned for the betterment of all," said the Baltimore Sun.
The Washington Post, in a negative review, said that Undercover Boss "is a hollow catharsis for a nation already strung out on the futility of resenting those who occupy CEO suites." Entertainment Weekly initially panned it, calling the first episode a "CBS-organized publicity stunt" and "a recruiting tool for a worker uprising," but in another review described the show as "irresistible." The Los Angeles Times believed that it was deriving its idea from Fox's Secret Millionaire (also created by Stephen Lambert) and that it was 'cooked' for TV, with the low-level workers being hand-picked, but conceded that the show is "undeniably touching".
Arianna Huffington noted, "In the 19th century, one of the most effective ways to convey the quiet desperation of the working class to a wide audience was via a realistic novel. In 2010, it's through reality TV. And Undercover Boss has clearly touched a nerve with viewers. Last week [February 28 - March 6, 2010], only the Olympics and American Idol scored higher in the ratings."
In an end of season review, the New York Times's chief television critic, Alessandra Stanley, examined the unexpected success of the show and concluded that "it’s the humility of the workers, their genuine astonishment and thankfulness over small acts of benevolence, that is most striking. If nothing else, Undercover Boss is a reminder that in bad times, people are less eager to confront or provoke authority; mostly they wish for small favors and the big, serendipitous strokes of luck."
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- Undercover Boss Marks Biggest New Series Premiere Since 1987
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- Stanley, Alessandra (February 5, 2010). "He's Good at Pushing Paper, but Can He Pick Up Trash?". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- Chozick, Amy (February 5, 2010). "The CEO Wears Coveralls". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- Zurawik, David (February 7, 2010). "'Undercover Boss' makes a case for CEO as hero". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- Stuever, Hank (February 7, 2010). "TV preview of 'Undercover Boss' on CBS". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- Tucker, Ken (February 7, 2010). "'Undercover Boss' review: Literally crappy reality TV". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
- Tucker, Ken (February 14, 2010). "'Undercover Boss': Deep inside Hooters". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
- Eureka!: The Secret Millionaire (RDF for C4) | In-depth | Broadcast
- McNamara, Mary (February 6, 2010). "The reality series puts CEOs incognito amid low-level employees in their companies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
- Arianna, Huffington (March 8, 2010). "Is Undercover Boss the Most Subversive Show on Television?". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2010.
- Stanley, Alessandra (April 9, 2010). "Reality TV That Puts the Boss in Meek’s Clothing". New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2010.
- Official website
- Production Website
- Undercover Boss (U.S. TV series) at TV.com
- Undercover Boss at the Internet Movie Database
- Undercover Boss (U.S. TV series) on Twitter
- Undercover Boss on Facebook
Super Bowl lead-out program