Good news for those who like a little sentimentality sprinkled over their TV diet — CBS’s Emmy-winning Undercover Boss returns Friday (11/2), with an episode featuring Mitchell Modell, whose family has owned and operated the Northeastern U.S. sporting goods stores bearing their name since 1889. According to Undercover Boss producer Chris Carlson, Modell has “a huge personality — a big character” that makes him ideal as a subject to build a show around.
“He has a lot of heart. He’s extremely honest. If there’s a problem, he tends to tackle it head-on. He’s bold in decision-making. And if something is wrong that he feels responsible for, he’s quick to take full blame,” Carlson told AARP.org.
Like other reality TV, Undercover Boss has faced skepticism over just how much “reality” it’s presenting — and how much is engineered. Carlson seemed free as he talked about the mechanics of it all. He pointed out that finding the right bosses for the program is essential.
“You do need certain ingredients to make an episode work well. Usually once we have somebody in mind as a boss, and the network has a chance to weigh in on it and we do a gut check once more — once we’re in, we’re in. Of course we end up shooting a lot more than you see on the TV show,” he added. Also vital is finding employees who have compelling personalities with whom the disguised CEOs, presidents and owners can interact. “Which people are honest, open, good at expressing themselves? Do they have the gift of gab? We’re not looking for wallflowers,” Carlson said. “The employees’ personalities shape the journey.”
Some wind up on the cutting room floor, if they prove to be “less than stellar” on camera — “for whatever reason. We all have our bad days.”
In fact, this season, Undercover Boss will be showing more of its own behind-the-scenes story — how it all gets done, reported Carlson, including the shenanigans involved in creating ruses to explain their camera teams. He also said that they’ll do more venturing out of the corporate world, to settings as extreme as last season’s Alaska fishing episode. “We like to try nontraditional approaches.”