Work: The Ultimate Reality Show
: They haven’t yet invented the perfect reality show. Here it is:
There is no better venue for venality, greed, cruelty, and all the qualities that make reality TV such a success.
And there is no better time, for with the economy in the dumper, you can bet that every office across the country is becoming meaner by the day. We’ll all relate to Work: The Ultimate Reality Show.
Like every reality show, you need to find a way to level the playing field and make it interesting. I say you pick an office of a small company that’s doing OK but just OK and you pit the classes against each other — the bosses vs. the midmanagers vs. the drones. You toss an impressive winning pot of money onto the field that resets all the rules, so the lowest drone can end up earning more than bosses or the bosses can have a record year even now. And you reset the rules of winning so profit isn’t the gauge (too often, it isn’t anyway) but instead, politics and deceit and popularity determine the winners. So you test the workers to see whether they will tell stories on each other (employee A is nipping office supplies; do you tell?) and you have the audience vote on the winners: American Idol meets Fortune.
I’m telling you, this will be huge. Huge.
: Work is already entertaining. This morning, Howard Stern played with his station’s general manager, Tom Chiusano, like a rat on a string. Their radio company just named a regional boss and Tom didn’t get the job. Howard told Tom that he was passed over, that he was a loser, that he could not tolerate another GM being his boss, that he was going to end up quitting. With every detail, it got worse: Tom didn’t even have the chance to pitch for the job. He was passed over. Twenty-three years invested in the company go pffft. That’s office politics. It’s every bit as dramatic as The Practice.
: Now see the popularity of the BBC series The Office in Britain, as reported by Gawker. It’s a mock documentary about office intrigue and stupidity; it is the fictional version of the reality show I want to see. I tried to buy it at Amazon.co.uk but that wouldn’t do me any good, because UK DVDs are coded so U.S. players can’t play them. Drat. I want The Office! And then I want a U.S. version (because Americans fight and politic differently from Brits; they debate for the sake of debating; we fight for the sake of fighting; we’re blunter).
: Finally, go watch Terry Tate: Office Linebacker at the Reebok site. It’s an expanded version of the brilliant Super Bowl commercial: A big, mean linebacker tackles office workers to make sure they put their cover sheets on their forms and and don’t steal pencils and don’t play games on work time. I guarantee that every worker in every office in the country watched that commercial in hysterics and knew exactly whom, in their offices, Terry should tackle.
: Work may not be fun these days. Work may be hard. Work may be mean. But work is entertaining. Work is The Ultimate Reality TV.
: Update: The Reebok Office Linebacker spot was the most-watched among Tivo users and more than 140,000 users downloaded the expanded four-minute version by noon Monday. Hit a nerve, this did.