The Great Recession left millions of middle-class Americans without jobs, and many have had no luck in finding another one. Some, seemingly, are so desperate that they've signed up with the new CBS reality show, "The Job," in the hope of landing a position with a high-profile employer, such as Epic Records, Live Nation or Cosmopolitan magazine.
But the show has its critics, including the New York Post, which called the program "offensive," in part because contestants are trying to land average, middle-class jobs, not those that offer the superstar status of other reality shows, such as "American Idol" or "The Voice."
" 'The Job' turns this massive human toll into spectacle, dangling the prospect of an unspecified mid-level position in front of desperate contestants, who degrade themselves by telling their most pathetic personal histories in the paradoxical quest to regain some dignity," writes Post TV critic Maureen Callahan.
The show's executive producer, Mark Burnett, who also developed the "Survivor" reality series, defends "The Job," saying that he believes it portrays "a kinder approach on television" and is nothing like "American Idol," which makes contestants look "foolish." (Burnett, however, made no reference to "The Voice," which he also produces.)
"I just don't think that watching public humiliation is cool [anymore]," Burnett says. Humiliating people seems spiteful. You can make good TV without that," he says, adding, "The Job" is great TV that doesn't make anyone look bad.
Further, Burnett tells CNN that employers should take a different approach in hiring workers. "Beyond experience and qualifications for a job and the ability to communicate [there] is just character," he says. "That character came through in the obstacles that people overcame in challenges on the show."
The show's premise involves five contestants who each week vie for their dream jobs as they move through elimination challenges similar to those that make up typical reality-show plots. Though some find it offensive, some critics have praised the show for tapping into the reality that many middle-class Americans are experiencing.
Despite steady growth in job creation during the past 35 months, the U.S. still has a huge unemployment hole to fill, especially in middle-class careers. According to a study last August by the National Employment Law Project, job losses during the Great Recession were concentrated among middle-income earners, but the bulk of the jobs that have been added back have been low-wage (58 percent), while mid-wage positions have accounted for just 22 percent of newly created positions.
The show does have a twist: After a decision is made about whether to hire a contestant, employers in the same industry sometimes swoop in and claim rejected candidates.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the challenges presented to contestants on "The Job" will have anything to do with the positions for which they are vying, or will the tasks simply be ridiculous schemes conjured up to entertain viewers. The show's producers aren't answering any of those questions.
But you can check it out for yourself when "The Job" debuts Feb. 8.
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