LOS ANGELES – Watching people suffer is typically an ideal ingredient for a successful reality show, but given rising unemployment rates and the current economic climate, could a show that features real people losing real jobs be a little too much?
In 2009, Fox created the reality series “Someone’s Gotta Go” featuring small companies struggling during the recession, and giving employees the green light to decide who should be fired. The pilot immediately sparked protests, and the series never made it to the small screen. But according to a Fox insider, the series has now been revived, with some important changes.
The source said the show will now be called “Does Someone Have to Go?” and instead of focusing on struggling companies, it will be based on dysfunctional workplaces (think "The Office"), and employees will debate about what to do regarding the dysfunction.
“Sometimes people get fired, and sometimes they change procedure,” said the source.
But even with the tweaks, the show is getting slammed.
“I find this concept ghoulish. What's next, take four sick people and let them decide which person doesn't get medicine? Losing a job is one of the worst experiences in life. It can make entertaining sitcom fodder, but as reality TV, it is probably too real,” Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business & Culture at the Media Research Center, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “A bad show can survive with the right time slot. But I think Americans could use some feel-good reality TV instead of feel-bad.”
Public relations professional Glenn Selig concurred that the show could potentially be received as being in “poor taste” given that it may hit too close to home for many viewers.
“No matter how you slice it, it involves a real person who could be fired. And the very fact that the network would air a reality show around such a serious subject as someone facing unemployment during this time of economic uncertainty is at the very least in poor taste,” he said. “Part of what makes a reality show so successful is that the people and the situations are nothing like their own reality. Watching it is an escape. But this show will be a lot like so many people’s reality that it may not be enjoyable.”
Gainor also wondered why a show that didn't work three years agao would work now, even if it had been somewhat softened.
“Clearly, the Obama economy still has not recovered. We've had nearly four years with unemployment over eight percent and American workers are still very worried about putting food on the table,” he said.
“Does Someone Have to Go?” has already attracted thumbs down on Twitter, with some calling the concept “perverse,” others questioning if it is the “worst reality show idea ever,” while others wonder how watching people being laid off could possibly be a source of “entertainment” for anyone.
But L.A-based pop culture expert Jenn Hoffman argues that the controversial concept is actually “extremely relevant” in today’s somber and uncertain economic environment.
“In a struggling economy people need, more than ever, to keep their jobs. If anything, this show will demonstrate the reality of how volatile the workplace can be and how difficult it is to remain employed in 2012,” she said. “Fox already has shows like ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ where Gordon Ramsey humiliates, then insists on firing weak restaurant staff and kitchen workers. NBC has ‘The Apprentice’ which made Donald Trump’s catchphrase ‘You’re Fired’ part of the American vernacular.”
Fox declined comment, and the show’s production company, Endemol USA, did not respond to a request for comment. The four-episode series is set to air sometime this season, although no official air date has been determined.
- Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.