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New reality show lets employees fire coworkers

David Bauder Associated Press

The Fox network is letting employees of some troubled small businesses decide which one of their colleagues will be laid off – and turning the results into a reality TV show.

The series, “Someone’s Gotta Go,” is in production, but Fox wouldn’t say this week when it would go on the air.

Each episode will feature a company with about 15 or 20 employees that needs to cut costs because of the economy. Instead of the boss deciding who is fired, the company will open its books to show everyone’s salaries and let the employees make the call.

In a reverse twist on “The Apprentice,” the chosen one loses, instead of gets, a job.

Fox says the laid-off worker will get a small severance, but isn’t saying whether the network or producers are paying the participants in anything beyond the chance for prime-time fame.

The network is developing the show with Endemol USA, the company behind “Big Brother,” “Deal or No Deal” and “Fear Factor.”

Tory Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of Women For Hire, which organizes job fairs and advises women seeking work, said she wonders whether “Someone’s Gotta Go” is a good idea at a time when so many people are out of work.

“For most people who are concerned about job security or are desperate to get hired, I don’t think there’s much to laugh at in terms of watching someone else’s pain and misery,” said Johnson, a regular contributor to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

But Mike Darnell, chief of alternative programming at Fox, said everyone who participates in the show knows fully what they are doing.

“I feel that it’s part of the times that we are living in,” Darnell said. “It’s certainly no worse than watching the news every night and hearing all the statistics and watching what is happening.

“To be frank, like all these shows, if you don’t want to watch, don’t watch it.”

Fox and Endemol have had “absolutely no trouble” finding companies willing to participate, he said.

The network wouldn’t reveal the show’s host, which it says is a business consultant who will offer advice to participating companies.

Darnell, a fan of “The Office,” said he’d been working with Endemol about a workplace show – perhaps involving an expert coming in to help a dysfunctional workplace – when he saw a news report about a company where the boss couldn’t decide who to lay off and left the job to his employees.

That became the basis for “Someone’s Gotta Go.”

He envisions it as a story about employee empowerment. Many people in the workplace can relate to seeing a colleague laid off and wondered why someone else they perceived as less valuable kept their job, he said.

Darnell said he wasn’t concerned about the emotional fallout in a workplace after “Someone’s Gotta Go,” where an employee might be left to work with a colleague they’d just said on national television should be fired.

“Sounds like good reality television,” he said. “You just described a good concept for a reality TV show.”

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