Does Someone Have To Go? Makes A Game Out Of Layoffs

Over the years, as reality competitions have grown ever more abusive of their participants' dignity, the shorthand for "reality show that requires contestants to debase themselves for profit" is Queen For A Day, a show older than any of us. QFAD was premised on the idea -- common in yesteryear -- that there was no job more thankless or miserable than being a wife and mother, and invited loved ones of particularly mistreated women to share a litany of their lives' disappointments, with the saddest sack taking home both practical items or services that they needed but couldn't afford ("a hearing aid, a new washing machine, or a refrigerator," per Wikipedia) and frivolous prizes she couldn't even dream of -- kind of like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition did for families. And while some may feel that this kind of self-humiliation can't possibly be worth it for those who participate in shows like this, at least they get prizes. In Does Someone Have To Go?, "winning" just means you keep your job.

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First of all, I love how Fox is already distancing itself from its own show by referring to it as an "experiment." (See also: this press release.) So when, inevitably, the show starts getting criticized for being in poor taste, the network can just shrug that the "experiment" failed -- probably because the "hypothesis" that viewers who may be actually concerned about keeping their actual jobs wouldn't find a show about employees deciding whether or not to fire their colleagues to be enjoyable, escapist entertainment.

Second, while the promo above teases the show as a practical corrective to toxic work environments -- Cubicle Nightmares, except EVERYONE is Gordon Ramsay -- this longer promo gives a sense of how uncomfortable this will be. Don't get me wrong: I've had crappy bosses during my years in the workforce; we all have. But that doesn't mean I was hoping I'd eventually end up in the position of firing them. Particularly in These Economic Times, when a middle manager in his or her forties gets fired, he or she will seem to other potential employers as (a) damaged goods with (b) too high a quote. So this isn't just a job loss; it may mean the end of his or her career, period. Maybe a crappy boss's employees would prefer that the crappy boss's boss did a better job of managing him or her, perhaps offering job training or mentoring or just a general closer supervision rather than taking on the responsibility of deciding to ruin a person's life.

The extended promo cuts in the voting process, which reminds one of the voting on any other show where the stakes were lower -- in other words, any other reality competition. They're checking boxes on computer screens, like The Mole. They're fighting with each other over their value to the group, like Survivor. But they're not scratching each other's eyes out for the chance to win a fun prize: they're trying to keep their normal, apparently-otherwise-boring jobs. They didn't ask for this.

Or maybe they did? Maybe this is all a put-on? Honestly, this would be an instance where I'd be happy to think a reality show were fake. If it's not, it's an experiment I really hope blows up spectacularly in Fox's face.

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