Neither TNT nor the makers of “Inside Job” (from the producers of “Undercover Boss”) and “Save Our Business” (which seeks to turn entrepreneur Peter Jones into the next Gordon Ramsay, minus the food throwing) — who are each raiding their own respective filmographies — win points for originality with the network’s new business-oriented reality-TV block. Still, the two shows represent a reasonably effective and certainly cohesive one-two combo in speaking to work-related apprehensions, while being a trifle formulaic in their respective approaches. Given the Friday scheduling, one suspects the network has its own misgivings about whether this tandem can ace the interview.
Like “Undercover Boss,” “Inside Job” is built around a bit of deception — in this case, pairing four candidates vying for a job at a different company each week (in the premiere, the House of Blues). The twist is that one of the four actually works for the employer, and will ultimately be responsible for choosing a winner from among the other three.
The producers leave the audience guessing for the first half of the hour, although those who are reasonably savvy about reality-TV casting — or simply bad acting — will have a pretty good chance of guessing who the mole is. Once that bit of suspense is lifted, however, the show becomes a fairly standard who-will-win game, using slick editing tricks while providing too little genuine information to form much of an opinion.
While the spy-in-the-ranks concept seems rife with possibilities as candidates go through various challenges, there’s nothing like a pee in the cornflakes moment or enormous gaffe in the two episodes previewed. That leaves “Inside Job” feeling a little mushy around the edges, other than the thrill-of-victory moment for the eventual winner.
As for “Save Our Business,” Jones is another snippy Brit, offering hope to businesses that are not just struggling to stay afloat financially but also are straining the proprietors’ key relationships. Like Ramsay in “Hotel Hell” (the producers worked with the shrieking chef on the “Hell’s Kitchen” franchise) or any number of Bravo makeover shows, Jones finds enough appalling screw-ups in the initial venues (a children’s play space and a karate dojo) to ensure he is properly aghast, before the inevitable turnaround.
All these shows bring a facile quality to the challenges of landing a job or running a small business, while seeking to get viewers to contemplate how they would fare under similar circumstances. It’s certainly worked well enough for any number of competitors, the double-edged sword being that these are pretty well-saturated concepts.
Of course, there’s also the prospect of considerable irony should these business-themed ventures wind up on TV’s chopping block — if “Inside Job” can’t close the deal, and “Save Our Business” can’t even save itself.