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Talking Trash: Undercover Boss

February 8, 2010

Now y’all know that I’m a fan of trashy television.  Gimme your Real Housewives of (insert city here), Keeping up with the Kardashians, or Flavor of Love. (Everyone shout Flavor Flav!)  Tonight though I really went for the full on trash of Undercover Boss with Larry O’Donnell of Waste Management.  What a way to make a debut of a series, and what a way to make the unlikely profession of sanitation heartwarming.

 I’m not a gusher, despite the fact that I’ve been known to break down in tears over an AT&T advertisement. However, this pilot episode got me and got to me.  Larry O’Donnell was the perfect executive and the featured staffers from Waste Management were the perfect mix for a series debut.  O’Donnell  comes across as taking this escapade into reality television as a serious opportunity to do good with the lessons learned. He also comes across as the guy we all want to work for.  Granted he only dabbled at picking up trash  or vacuuming up shit, jobs his thousands of employees do daily, but he really appeared to relish the temp gig.

What was really fascinating about the show was the chance to see real people doing the jobs we take for granted.  The cheerful guy whose regular job is to Hoover up gallons of waste out of port-a-potties at amusement parks; the woman garbage truck driver who, to keep to management’s schedules, has to pee in a coffee  can while she picks up the trash we whine about taking out to the curb on Tuesdays; or the woman who has to sort through our trash and pull out the stuff we halfheartedly toss into the recycling bin in an effort to be green. These were the people who really made the episode worth watching. (Watch the full episode at

Sure. The show is somewhat scripted, and the people they pick to feature are chosen to tug at our heart strings, but it doesn’t matter.  The show is fun and uplifting; particularly when the reveal comes and changes  are promised and, as the epilogue tells us, delivered.

I’m looking forward to next week when a dirtbag manager at a Hooter’s restaurant gets taken to task by CEO Coby Brooks for asking the girls in orange Dolphin shorts and nylons to play demeaning games in order to get off work early.

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