‘Welcome to Chicago,’ intones a voice that wants to be dramatic, but doesn’t quite make it – and suddenly, we’re taking a tour through the Second City, courtesy of the Fourth Network. It’s a stronghold of American business. It’s a place of perilous risks and staggering payoffs. It’s a city with a lot of wind blowing through it, and the arrival of FOX just tripled the hot air quotient.
Right: it’s a FOX series. I can feel the viewership declining from here. Y’see, FOX hates reality contestants. Always has. Always will. Every reality show they’ve ever put on has been about the complete humiliation and total destruction of the people they brought into it – regardless of what they originally intended at the time. Think about the shows they’ve aired to date. Look at the pattern. We dislike most DAWs and occasionally loathe them. This network is only being restrained from torturing someone to death for five thousand dollars and broadcasting it live by a full prime-time schedule, and I wouldn’t rule out Who wants to be eviscerated? for the February sweeps.
And this is why most of FOX’s reality shows fall apart. While a little affection for the contestants isn’t exactly a necessary detail in a show’s construction, it helps. We can hate them as much as we like. We’re not the ones with the actual power. It’s safety loathing. FOX has the money, the cameras, the inmates in the Maximum Security Wing writing the scripts, and, just in case you forgot, Rupert Murdock. We subliminally sense how much the network despises the people they’re giving airtime too and tune out in large numbers, feeling vaguely outclassed. A show would have to present a group of people so incredibly stupid, egotistical, delusional, and deserving of punishment, that we as viewers could abandon mere malicious joy and embrace outright sadism. And that just doesn’t happen very often. To wit, it happens less than FOX stealing a show idea from another network. Then again, you could say the same thing about sunrises.
For what it’s worth, the slow-motion sky tour is very dramatic this time of year.
‘To those who would seek entry to this citadel of big business, beware,’ the voice continues to monotone, coming dangerously close to adding ‘he pompoused’ as a way of describing speech. ‘Entry is a privilege sought by many, but guarded by an exclusive few,’ and now we know exactly what they’re ripping off. So what does this make, three billionaires on the air in the same month? Can’t they just buy their own cable channel, schedule twenty-one hours a week of waving their vaults at each other, and leave the rest of us alone?
Lots of wealth-related images (yachts, diamonds, etc.) start to flash on the screen, and the voice continues. ‘People who hold the key to wealth beyond your wildest dreams. People of unparalled financial mastery, who deserve to be worshipped like gods among men –‘ and I’m starting to think this is Donald with a bad cold ‘—people like me.’
And we enter the cabin of a private luxury jet, where we meet Mr. N. Paul Todd. (The N is for ‘Notorious’) He is, as expected, a billionaire. He buys companies. He sells companies. He’s rejected the little expenditures, like really good hairdressers and a color palette that flatters his complexion. ‘The point is,’ as he says, ‘I’m loaded,’ and given that they serve drinks on this flight, I’m very willing to believe him. ‘I’ve got craploads of money. But more important than that, I’ve got wisdom. It’s the kind of wisdom that can only come from having craploads of money.’ (At this point, I’m starting to actively miss Donald.) ‘So I’m looking for a protégé’. A squire. A disciple.’ The stewardess serves him a drink, and he serves her a butt-pat. ‘What’s the word? Someone not very old that I can tell all my business secrets to…?’
He’s gathered a group of twelve overqualified, overeducated, Type A+ overbearing overachievers, and they’re going to compete for a lucrative place in his company. He will test them. He will berate them. He will be kept from killing them only with great difficulty. But there’s one little detail the contestants won’t know going in.
The camera pulls back to show N. Paul Todd sitting in a studio set made up to look just like a small section of luxury jet.
He’s a total fraud.
Meet William August, attorney, veteran actor of twenty years experience, and the bait at the end of the barbed hook. He will be playing the ‘most obnoxious, demeaning boss that anyone’s ever seen’, and we know he’s been watching NBC while he studied for the part. His corporation was never registered. The billions are a total sham. (This is FOX: there’s barely enough money for the film.) The contestants on their way to meet this tycoon are competing for a job that doesn’t exist. They are coming to be humiliated, deconstructed, tortured, and made to look like absolute fools in front of an audience that may not be dwindling with quite the same speed it was five minutes ago.
In other words, FOX has once again found a show to suit their particular talents, and there’s not a thing the Coy family can do about it. Welcome to My Big, Fat, Obnoxious Boss. And you wondered how they could possibly do a sequel…
The contestants arrive in Chicago, are told they’re worth their weight in gold and deserve transport to match, then get bundled into an appropriate transport. Three armored cars, normally used for moving bank deposits and the like. Which is very secure, somewhat flattering, and vaguely appropriate, but it lacks a few things. Like proper seats. Air conditioning. Windows. The ability to get out. The game has been on for less than two minutes and the first hours of torture are underway, because those cars are going to aimlessly circle Chicago until nightfall. (Hopefully someone packed the two-hundred mile deodorant.) There are twelve players, packed six to a car: the third vehicle contains a predictable surprise.