Skein hails from 'Undercover Boss' team

A&E has given a seven-episode order to “Be the Boss,” a reality skein born of the good fortune bestowed on an employee featured in a 2010 episode of CBS’ “Undercover Boss.”

“Be the Boss,” from “Undercover Boss” shingle Studio Lambert, will revolve around a competition between two employees of a franchise-based company. The employees think they’re vying for a promotion, but in fact the winner will be handed the keys to a franchise or new branch of their own.

The project was initially shot as a pilot for CBS last year, but with slots for new shows on CBS hard to come by, Studio Lambert’s Stephen Lambert and Eli Holzman set their sights on cable.

The inspiration for the hourlong show stemmed from the 2010 episode of “Undercover Boss” that featured 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto. DePinto was so impressed by the work ethic he saw in Igor Finkler, a 7-Eleven driver from Texas featured in the episode, that a few months after the seg aired, he made the Russian immigrant the head of a 7-Eleven store of his own.

A&E sees “Be the Boss” as a good fit for its aud at a time when the job market remains incredibly difficult for many Americans. The show is a little more competition-based than most of A&E’s fare, but it’s grounded in the realities of the workplace, said David McKillop, A&E’s exec veep of programming.

“Given the mood of the country I think it’s going to resonate strongly,” said McKillop. “These are not fantasy jobs. This is a competition that takes into account hard work and intelligence, and shows the kind of skill sets that someone needs to run their own business.”

McKillop emphasized that Studio Lambert’s track record with “Undercover Boss” convinced A&E that the producers could pull off “Be the Boss,” which will require a high level of secrecy among participants in the show and strong relationships with corporate America.

Lambert and Holzman are exec producers of “Be the Boss” along with McKillop and A&E’s Drew Tappon and Nicole Reed. Scott Koondel, prexy of distribution for CBS TV Distribution, played matchmaker between Studio Lambert and A&E. A&E owns the show and will handle international distribution.

There’s no word yet on a premiere date. Studio Lambert is now finalizing the corporate participants for the first batch of episodes.

Holzman echoed McKillop’s thoughts on the show’s potential to tap into the national mood at a moment that has spurred the Occupy movement and other protests over the divide between the haves and have-nots in the workplace.

“With ‘Undercover Boss’ we realized that we’d struck a chord with a show that brings the 1% face-to-face with the 99%,” Holzman said. “We think this is just the beginning. We want to continue to put a positive message out there about the American entrepreneurial spirit.”

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