Channel 4 are clearly of the ‘once you’ve got something that works, do it to death’ school of programme making because Undercover Boss was so like Secret Millionaire, one could hardly see the join.
The format consisted of exactly the same principles; someone pretending to be someone they’re not infiltrating groups of other people before a big ‘reveal’ where the original someone’s true identity is made known, complete with tense music and shocked faces…
But how can anyone be shocked? If I were approached by someone who was toting a camera crew with them and saying they just happened to be filming a documentary, I’d be immediately suspicious, but it seems last night’s infiltrated Park Resorts staff don’t watch telly, ever, because they did seem genuinely surprised when the company’s director, Andy Edge, finally revealed who he really was.
It began with Andy stating that he wanted to see how his company works from the roots up; that meant him spending several days with his staff and calling himself Drew, as in An-Drew. Andy… Drew… get it? Clever stuff. He did this under the cover story that he was trying out new careers for a TV documentary. And it seems, to a man, they believed him. As I said, I can only assume these folks don’t have TVs.
So Andy joined the commoners of his company – the ones who don’t have a “six figure salary” – and became an entertainer, then a cleaner then a cook/waiter/pot washer.
In Norfolk, he encountered disillusioned and frankly, p’d off cleaning staff who didn’t have a good word to say about Park Resorts between them. Their manager told Andy how she hated every aspect of her job which, to be honest, was kinda dumb. Even if he hadn’t turned out to be her big boss, the thing was supposedly going to be aired on TV so she might have expected rapid delivery of her P45 from Park Resorts just for slagging it off in ‘Drew’s’ documentary.
However, on the Isle of Wight, he encountered much happier cleaning staff. This was thanks to their manager who’d decided to lose some of the supervisors and with the cash that freed up, she paid the cleaners more. The result was a happy work force and cleaner caravans.
But all was not as rosy in one of the kitchens. We saw how health and safety standards and even basic kitchen hygiene standards were being flagrantly ignored and the head chef was a bloke who didn’t even had a hygiene certificate. He’d never worked in catering before, had no formal training whatsoever but there he was running the whole shebang. He cooked, he washed up, he served… he did pretty much everything for about 12 hours a day.
So, by the end of his foray into the great unwashed of Park Resorts staff, Andy went triumphantly back to HQ and wiped the smug grins off the faces of several of the board when he highlighted the problems he’d encountered.
“Nobody is employed in the kitchens without a basic food hygiene certificate” said one with a very self-satisfied smirk, which rapidly evaporated as Andy expounded on the story of the has-no-such-thing cook.
While that was going on, we saw several of the staff members he’d encountered boarding trains to scary HQ and all still in wonderment as to what’s occurin’. However, then we had the tense moments of Andy’s reveals and the lady cleaning manager who loathed her job – along with her terminally miserable sidekick who hated the cleaning staff and wanted to sack them all – did a fairly impressively job of going pale and gulping a lot as they clearly assumed they were in for a rollocking and/or a sacking.
The overburdened but hard-working cook was told he’d been signed up for an NVQ course at a local college where he’d learn food hygiene and other kitchen wizardry. His reaction was rather OTT I thought; you’d think Andy Edge had just handed him a cheque for a million pounds, not a prospectus for a Not Very Qualified course.
The show ended with the Isle of Wight cleaning team being treated to a stay in a luxury 5 star hotel where they behaved in a suitably slack-jawed yokel way whilst exclaiming breathlessly on the luxury of a mini-bar and other shiny things that they’d evidently never experienced in their lives before. Bless ‘em. It was all very Cinderella.
Next week, the boss of a building firm is going to be doing the same thing… will I be tuning in? Well, it depends what’s on offer as an alternative but without doubt the last few minutes will be worth watching as his employees sit sweaty handed awaiting their fate when it’s revealed who the mystery man is. Other people’s discomfort is always worth a look I find.