Think you've got a dysfunctional workplace? You're not the only one.
Fox is bringing work home from the office with its new reality show Does Someone Have to Go?, which premieres Thursday at 9/8c. In the series, the latest creation from veteran reality show producers Mike Darnell (Joe Millionaire) and Cris Abrego (The Surreal Life), company power is turned over from management to the employees. The employees must then select three underperforming co-workers who run the risk of getting fired if they can't change their tune.
The Chicago-based company VMS is featured in the first two episodes. VMS has a host of interpersonal problems partially because it is controlled by a sprawling family executive leadership. Most of the 70 employees — at least the ones who are featured on the show — are not part of the family. "This wasn't the typical reality show where you get sent to a mansion or an island of some sort," Abrego tells TVGuide.com. "There is no prize. There is no host. The owners and boss really conducted the two days of the event."
Abrego talked with TVGuide.com about the show's origins, the difficult casting process and its similarities to The Surreal Life.
Where did the show idea come from?
Cris Abrego: The format idea generated internally at [production company] Endemol. We were looking to get into the business space, and trying to figure out how to do it differently, with the help of Mike Darnell at Fox. He helped us to simplify it and streamline it.
VMS has 70 employees, but just some were used. Was casting where most of your time went?
Abrego: I I spent a LOT of time [on that]. It was probably the most amount of time prepping, quote-unquote casting, for the show. It's a little bit casting, and a little bit who's willing to participate. Everyone individually has to want to do it within the company. No one is forced to do it. The people who want to participate will act as the governing board of the company.
How is The Surreal Life from the same DNA?
Abrego: Definitely. It was a story I saw that was really happening. We pursued it. We didn't go out casting for it per se, looking for it. But a lot of these companies that we did come across, a lot of them are family-owned. This one happened to be across the board and [family ownership was] an issue with the company. It was really happening there, and I think it's a really great story.
It seems like there is built-in tension at VMS because it's run by family and employed by non-family.
Abrego: On The Surreal Life, people were always saying, "You get them to do crazy things." By no means. We were just telling their stories, whatever was happening — whether it was comedic, tragic or shocking. So, the [two shows'] DNA is very similar. We go into their work and literally film in their cubicles and offices. Then we tell their stories. The only thing I have to push them to do is share with us and to trust me to tell their story.
How much footage was shot for the show?
Abrego: A ton! We shot for three days, about 12 hours — it's close to 1,000 hours, probably. The show is six one-hour [episodes]; each office is two hours. So, VMS will conclude in the following week. You get to see the second half. The first hour is about having the company [find] who they think are the issues of the company, and who needs things to change: salary reduction or probation or to be let go. The bottom three [are left]. The second hour is really about those three people fighting for their jobs and convincing the other employees of their value. Then, of course, the final decisions [come] for them.
Is it like a boardroom situation?
Abrego: To some extent. But they're still kind of in the office. So it's in and out of the conference room.
Is only one person fired each time?
Abrego: It's really left up to the staff that's not in the bottom three. Without giving the end away, I can say that in some cases, people do lose their jobs, and in other cases, they don't.
What other companies are featured?
Abrego: We have a company called DFX in Anaheim, which will be the next company that airs. They're a very successful company. If you've seen those products that strengthen your wrist, those little balls — they invented those. They've developed into this huge company with core training. It's that kind of company. We also have a company in St. Louis, Mo., called True Home Value. They are kind of a construction company: wall-paneling, decks, pools, that kind of stuff.
Did you consider other situations besides the ones on the show?
Abrego: We did think of a lot of situations. We worked with a corporate psychologist, a guy named Dave Toppel, who does it for a living. He was very instrumental in helping us [figure out] what we would be doing. We worked with the boss under the conceit of you should know whatever the boss knows. What are the two biggest things? The boss knows everything, because everyone is coming to them individually and complaining about everyone else, and salary. There are some companies that practice salary transparency, even though it's one of the most taboo things. As Americans, you are never supposed to tell people what you make, and talk money per se. We reveal everyone's salary in every company.
I watched it and got of anxious — is that normal, you think?
Abrego: I think so. What part made you anxious?
There are a lot of exposed nerves.
Abrego: I think that's to be expected. What I hope is we get is how relatable it is. At the end of this, we get to the second hour, and everyone is in a really good place. Everyone is happy they participated in it. It clears a lot of the air within the company. People learn a lot about themselves. But more importantly, they learn how to be the boss, and learn about themselves. They learn how difficult it is to be the boss and deal with these certain issues. So, I hope everyone takes away how relatable the show is. I think it's just a good, entertaining summer show.
Does Someone Have to Go? airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.
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