Apr 28, 2009

TV programing cashes in on bad economy

by Elisabeth Garman

 In the world of reality shows, nothing is sacred. The Daily Variety recently announced Fox would air a new show called “Someone’s Gotta Go,” in which employees in troubled small companies will compete to keep their jobs, while choosing who will be terminated.

Endemol USA is behind the series, and Fox reality chief Mike Darnell calls it “‘Survivor’ meets ‘The Office.’” Fox has not set an airdate, but the show is expected to air as soon as the end of the summer, as reported on foxreality.com.

Over the last past year, unemployment rates were up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cruel reality of this recession has hit home to most Americans, especially those facing pay cuts, layoffs and even bankruptcy.

With that said, it is bad taste for any network to highlight this sensitive issue in the form of a reality show. But then again, Fox is not the first network to see the difficult times as an opportunity. A current trend in advertising is to mention the recession, and bankruptcy firms as well as debt consolidation agencies seem to be cashing in.

The classless genre of the reality show is here to stay. Other shows focus on some type of addiction or problem and watch people get better (or worse) as in “Celebrity Rehab” or “Diet Tribe.” People tune in to watch the tears, the drama and the excitement.

In the new Fox series, Darnell has tapped into a new concept of what goes on in a professional office and threw in a competition to keep their current jobs. Of course, the idea lacks taste, but it is a recipe for success, combining a relatable issue, plus participants who are almost guaranteed to cry and fight —voila, reality show perfection.

Endemol North America Chairman David Goldberg argued that this concept would actually help the business owners, in an interview with The Daily Variety. “As a boss myself, I don't want to have to make those decisions. It's safe to say that it hasn't been difficult to find companies willing to participate,” he said.

Goldberg also went on to say that they consulted with labor attorneys to cover their bases.

“We've got an employment expert and business consultant to work with us through this process. There is a professional involved that brings the show an element of credibility,” he said.

While there is no argument here that the show is shockingly insensitive, the idea is brilliant from a business perspective. The economy is on everyone’s mind, so why not showcase that in a reality show, like other popular issues? An employee at the company will lose his or her job anyway, so maybe the reality show can provide them with other opportunities.

The controversy spikes interest, and whether you are disgusted at this concept or not, the only thing that really matters is whether you tune in when it airs. As cliché at it sounds, ratings make the reality world go ‘round.


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