CBS’ “Undercover Boss” is a ratings winner; it’s one of the best reality shows on TV. According to the latest stats, it rules Sunday night. And it’s been picked up for a second season.
“Undercover Boss” follows high-level chief executives as they slip anonymously into the rank and file of their companies.
Each week, a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.
If you haven’t seen “Undercover Boss,” I suggest you do. You’ll notice two things: 1) The CEO’s would not last a day in the average working world; balancing family, low wages, and long hours
2) ‘Black men working’ come as a complete surprise to CEOs and American audiences.
Let’s face it, when it comes to the image of Black men in America, we think rapper, athlete, entertainer, news reporters/anchors and criminals. Political figures are in their own category, as are our spiritual leaders. But the work-a-day Black man; our fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands, and cousins get little props. They just do what’s expected– like going to work in order to provide for their families–and they often suffer or have to defend the backlash pressed upon them by our more visible brothers.
“Undercover Boss” exposes Black men for whom and what they really are. Wonderful, hard-working men who love their families, have incredible interests outside the job, and easily impress the ‘big boss’ without even trying.
In the first episode, the Waste Management President and COO, Larry O’Donnell, picked up litter on the road, cleaned toilets, and picked up garbage just for starters. The first person he met was an older Black man named Walter, whose job it is to pick up trash on the roadways. Using the name of ‘Randy,’ the big boss tried to keep up with his supervisor’s instructions of filling two large black trash bags in 10 minutes, regardless of the fact it was a windy day. He couldn’t do it, and Walter fired him.
The important thing to know about Walter is that for the last 19 years, 3 days a week he’s under dialysis because he lost the functions of his kidneys, and he says he lets his spirit tell his body what to do, and not the other way around. And that’s why he gets angry when he can work circles around a healthy man that is too lazy to do a good job. And that’s just one story.
In the same show, the president (Randy) also met a brother named Fred who cleans the public toilets. Fred’s positive outlook, and the way he handled such a ‘dirty’ job truly impressed Randy as did the other participants in the show.
Perhaps the best part of the show is how each chief executive recognizes their hardworking personnel by meeting a wish, or advancing their careers. In Walter’s case, he’s motivating thousands of employees as a health mentor for the entire company. And Fred now works at a hospital in a position where his positivity lifts patient’s spirits, and he attributes that move to the Waste Management President and COO., Larry O’Donnell.
In this as well as subsequent shows, every chief executive recognizes the potential of these individuals and has promoted each Black man they’ve encountered and one young Black woman to a better position, or they are in management training for the company.
There are so many great stories and great people connected with this show. I’m just happy to see how kind, professional, and generous Black men are at being themselves, something I always knew, but now the world knows too.
“Undercover Boss” airs Sunday nights on CBS at 9 PM. And you can see all the past and current shows on line at Or if you have Time Warner Cable you can check out the shows on On Demand.
It’s a heart-warming show that’s funny and interesting. It is good television.
Gail can be contacted at