Someone’s Gotta Go – Fox preferably 

10 April 2009 tbs.pm/1040

With the arrival of The Wire on BBC Two, there’s been much said about the quality of US drama in relation to what we get in the UK.

Now I’ve never watched the Wire, having decided against watching it purely because BBC Two’s decision to show four episodes a week meant that I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up. But I know that there’s some good US programming. Battlestar Galatica springs instantly to my mind.

However there’s a reminder today that whilst American drama is aiming high, it’s not always true of other parts of the US schedule.

Witness the news that Fox are starting a new reality TV programme where cash strapped businesses will let the staff decide which of their colleagues should be got rid off.

In ‘Someone’s Gotta Go’ the company books will be turned over, staff salaries will be revealed. And no doubt bitterness and agendas will be at the heart of the show.

Leaving aside the arguments of whether the best way for a company owner to decide the future of their business (someone may earn substantially more than their colleagues, but bring greater value to the business – but will the staff see it like that?) there’s no denial that this is plumbing a whole new depth of television.

It’s all very well Alan Sugar telling someone that they’re fired, but the contestants of The Apprentice have all signed up. They’ve left their old jobs, they’ve decided to make a lifestyle decision.

But in ‘Someone’s Gotta Go’, this is clearly playing with peoples lives in a cruel, sadistic and very public way. Whilst the makers of the show have claimed every employee has to agree to appear, you don’t know how much pressure the staff will feel under. In the US there’s already a situation where many employees are so fearful of losing their jobs that they routinely take less of their annual leave entitlement (which is already pitifully low compared to UK standards) – what fear will drive people in to going onto a reality TV programme?

“You won’t agree to appear on the show? Well we do need to make some layoffs…”

Even if no one says that to any of the potential “contestants”, it’s not beyond the realms of fantasy to think that employees will be thinking it might.

One of the questions often asked about TV is how low will it go? It’s clear we’re not at the lowest possible – no one has suggested making The Contenders yet. However it seems pretty obvious that Fox are plumbing new depths of lowness on this one.

And the depressing thing is, that it will probably do very well in the ratings too. After all, who could possibly resist the inevitable bitch fights and slanging matches…

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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