‘Undercover Boss’ is Back – Manipulative as Ever

Thanks to the quick hook for “Made in Jersey,” CBS’ “Undercover Boss” returns a bit sooner than expected, but without any rust on its feel-good premise.

UndercoverbossThe premiere — which joins the Friday lineup starting Nov. 2 — features the CEO of Modell Sporting Goods, Mitchell Modell, who actually shaves his head to obscure his identity as he infiltrates the ranks of his company. Either that, or he’s hoping for a part in the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel.

Fortunately, the boss is a big old softie, who cries as easily as his employees do when he gives them good news in what the show bills as “the most dramatic reveal ever.” Presumably this involves grading on a curve.

As I noted in my latest column, the really amazing part about “Undercover Boss” is how adept the show is at getting viewers to suspend disbelief, including the fact the boss is clueless as to what’s happening farther down the food chain. Even assuming that’s true, it’s a hoot that the show manages to spin that into an asset, instead of making him look like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Then again, this is one of those shows where it’s hard to imagine people don’t get more suspicious than they let on. Put it this way: If a a middle-aged guy (or in the case of the third episode, gal) shows up with a camera crew asking a lot of questions, there’s good reason to be skeptical that he or she is really just the new clerk, bartender or janitor. (Granted, some of these folks are not what one thinks of as the likeliest of heavy CBS viewers.)

“Boss” does catch a potential break, scheduling-wise, in that it Ucb_modellgoes up against two ABC comedies, “Last Man Standing” and the new Reba vehicle “Malibu Country,” as opposed to “Shark Tank,” creating a somewhat clearer choice for viewers.

And for CBS, eager to plug this hole in its lineup, there’s no doubt some comfort and relief in saying the new “Boss” looks a whole lot like the old one.

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