Despite the high unemployment rate, the folks responsible for CBS’ “The Job” are all gainfully employed, and based on the shrewd manner in which this reality competition is assembled, it’s not hard to figure out why. Drawing from various reality franchises as each hour whittles down five candidates to a main winner, the show dangles lifelines to also-rans as well, a bit like A&E’s “Be the Boss.” Mostly, “The Job” plays like a clever throwback to TV’s youth, perhaps not surprising given one of the masterminds, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire’s” Michael Davies, brought the quizshow back to primetime.
Taking the place of “Undercover Boss,” the program offers a flip side to the job-seeking riddle, with the contenders essentially auditioning to a trio of execs from a company (in the premiere, the Palm restaurants) in front of a studio audience. Test one involves how they performed in a field tryout, using video that’s shown and then analyzed, before a quiz and eventually an “interview.”
Still, it would be too neat and easy to wrap things up there, so “The Job” adds layers of intrigue, among them execs from rival companies in the same business, on hand to potentially poach candidates they deem promising. On top of that, some contestants have sob stories to tell, injecting a little “Queen for a Day” into the opening hunt for an assistant manager’s position.
Finally, the show weaves in interstitial “Job tips” from the execs, such as counseling what to do (or not do) in an interview. That adds a conscious educational element to the proceedings, which already prompt viewers to contemplate both sides of the equation — considering what they might do to land the job, and who they might hire.
The find-a-job challenge here is more relatable than something like “Shark Tank,” since there are far more working stiffs out there than budding entrepreneurs. The cheering studio crowd also adds an old-time panel-show feel to the festivities, while the prospect of more than one winner softens some of the cruelty or potential disappointment (though there’s still some of that, naturally) in missing out.
Hosted with understated efficiency by Lisa Ling, “The Job” manages to tap into concerns about high unemployment without being ghoulish about it. And while most unscripted concepts that attempt to be timely come with a built-in expiration date, for now, “Job,” consider yourself hired.