Art and Entertainment


Fox’s New Layoff Show: Brilliant or Brutal?

April 10, 2009 10:30 AM
by Rachel Balik
Fox’s new reality TV show, “Someone’s Gotta Go,” might be too much too soon for viewers coping with anxiety about the recession.

“Someone’s Gotta Go” Might Go Too Far

Mike Darnell, Fox’s head of reality TV programming, says that the network’s new show, “Someone’s Gotta Go,” won’t depress viewers any more than the nightly news. But in a time when many fear for their jobs, the layoff-themed show may hit too close to home.

On the show, bosses of struggling small businesses turn over information about employees’ salaries and performance reviews to the entire company, and let them decide which of their co-workers needs to go. The Associated Press reports that Darnell thinks there is a positive message behind putting more power in the hands of employees. But other workplace experts predict uneasy audiences won’t be amused by a play-by-play of the layoff process.

Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes likens the show to “Lord of the Flies.” She also explores Darnell’s assertion that the show serves as “wish fulfillment” for employees who disagree with their bosses’ layoff choices. Darnell apparently had no answer for the Post when the newspaper asked about the legal issues involved with revealing employee salaries and evaluations on television.

Opinion & Analysis: The trauma of layoffs and recession depression

Darnell seems to believe that the American public will feel a secret thrill from watching employees sack their fellow co-workers, but critics are concerned that today’s viewers simply aren’t emotionally prepared to watch a show about layoffs. Layoffs are painful not only for people who lose their jobs, but those who remain as well. Many remaining employees struggle with post-layoff survival guilt. In addition, those remaining in the office can’t depend on job security in these tough economic times and often face an increased workload in the wake of their co-workers’ departures.

According to The New York Times, even people not experiencing any direct effect from the recession are beginning to suffer from severe anxiety and depression. People are reporting panic attacks, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression in record numbers, psychologists say. There are more calls to suicide hotlines and many more first time users of antidepressants.

One woman interviewed by the Times admitted that her unhappiness was exacerbated by excessive consumption of news about the recession. If Americans are recognizing that they’re unhappy when they think about the recession, a layoff-based reality TV show might be doomed. Alternately, it might draw massive crowds similar to those who flock to car crashes.

Related Topic: Controversial reality TV

Darnell is also responsible for a new reality dating show called “More to Love,” which has rubbed a few people the wrong way. He told the Hollywood Reporter that the show, which matches up overweight contestants, would give “real” looking people the chance to find love as well. The show is intended to capitalize on the enthusiastic ratings of both “The Bachelor” and “The Biggest Loser.”

Deceased reality star Jade Goody also got a mixed response when she decided to share her fatal battle with cancer on TV. After she was diagnosed, the British “Big Brother” star made deals to publicize her death, increasing both her wealth and fame up until her last hour. Although some thought it was tasteless, others said it increased cancer awareness.

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