‘Does Someone Have to Go?,’ yikes
Folks turned on by office politics may like this new Fox show
May 17, 2013
Depending on who’s listening, a show’s title can be misleading. Many parents will assume that Fox’s new reality show “Does Someone Have to Go?” has something to do with what parents say to their kids when pulling into a gas station during a long road trip.
In fact, the show is a kind of real-life “Survivor” in which employees at a small company are supposedly given the power to vote someone out of the office — in other words, have him or her fired. Revealing the company’s dysfunction, the show has some documentary interest and may cause smiles of recognition as viewers see annoying co-workers who remind them of their own cubicle neighbors.
But by encouraging the employees to point out one another’s flaws, the show may capture too well the gloom of an unhappy workplace. Since the final firing decision doesn’t occur in the first episode — the only one made available for review —we don’t know whether the story will end on an uplifting note next week. It’s unlikely that enough viewers who sample the premiere will be driven to tune in to find out.
The premiere episode, airing next Thursday, May 23, at 9 p.m., is set in a credit-card-processing company called Velocity Merchant Services, located near Chicago. An opening montage shows the employees badmouthing and bickering with one another.
We learn that the company has an unusual source of friction: Founded by a woman named Dema when she was only 19, it employs her husband, mother, brother and assorted cousins. The nonfamily staffers feel that the family members get preferential treatment.
The narrator says that Dema may be too close to make the right decision about personnel changes, so a group of 16 employees will be given two days to vote for three among them who could be fired. But demotion and a salary cut are also mentioned as possibilities.
The company employs more than 70 people, and we don’t hear why these 16 are picked.
In the first of two nightmare scenarios, the 16 participants gets to hear what the others think of them, through clips taken from what were supposedly confidential interviews.
Everyone agrees that a man named Zoe, who handles collections, is lazy. Many people say Dema’s mother, Kout, the company’s accountant, doesn’t do her job. Someone says Kout has been nicknamed CNN because she’s constantly ratting out co-workers to Dema.
Shawn, the director of sales, who in an earlier scene was labeled with a graphic saying “The Jerk,” is set up as the potential villain. He’s negative about everyone else, and his co-workers say that he is “argumentative” and “can be perverted.”
When Shawn says that Zoe never comes up with new ideas, Zoe turns to him and says, “I’ve got a new idea for you.”
After watching all this trash talk, the participants get a break, which they spend fighting over the things they said in the interviews.
Then, in the second nightmare scenario, they reconvene to watch a video that shows everyone’s salaries. An older salesman who is called Uncle Mike earns only $25,000, which some people think is too much because Mike wastes so much time chatting. They’re shocked to learn that Kout earns $77,000.
With their remaining time before the vote, the participants indulge in some “Survivor”-style negotiations. Naveid, the IT manager, who says his motto is “Getting it done” even though everyone accuses him of procrastinating, tries to start a groundswell against Kout. Her relatives assess the risks of turning against one of their own.
If we believe that someone might actually get fired, the stakes in this show are high, but the infighting is actually less vicious than that on some competition shows on which contestants are vying for, say, $50,000.
That’s a refreshing change, as is the sight of people essentially being themselves. The participants’ actions and reactions feel real, in marked contrast to most reality shows set at workplaces, which prefer eccentricity and conflict to truth. But the relative civility seems to spring from timidity and weariness, not camaraderie.
At the end of the premiere episode, we learn the identities of the three people who might be eliminated, some of whom are surprising. But we’re told we have to tune in next week to learn their fates.
If the show were called “Someone Has to Go” and we were sure that one of the three is going to get fired, morbid curiosity would make more of us watch next time. But most viewers will finish the episode thinking either that everyone is going to get a reprieve or that the bosses will fire the one who can best afford it and is most ready for it.
This show doesn’t have to go, but it doesn’t have to stay either.
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