'Undercover Boss' gets more diverse in second season
When CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler proudly introduced the bosses from the first season of the hit reality series "Undercover Boss" during this year's upfront presentation to advertisers, they had something in common: All of them were middle-aged white men.
The lack of women and minorities in the "Undercover Boss" group was glaringly obvious to some in the audience who wondered whether producers of the show had only reached out to white CEOs.
Quite the contrary, said producers, who maintained they had been unsuccessful in recruiting women and minority bosses. But this season is markedly different. "Undercover Boss," which launched its second season last week, will feature its first female CEO on Sunday at 9 p.m. with an installment that focuses on Kim Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, billed as the country's largest family of indoor water park resorts.
Schaefer is shown struggling to keep pace as an "undercover" employee at one of her company's aquatic centers that can handle nearly 3,000 guests at any one time.
Later in the season, "Undercover Boss" will spotlight Fernando Aguirre, president and CEO of Chiquita Brands International, which specializes in bananas, healthy snacks and smoothies.
Stephen Lambert, creator and executive producer of the series, said the absence of women and minorities CEOs and COOs in the first season of "Undercover Boss" "wasn't for lack of trying. We really tried to get a wide range of bosses. We approached many female and minority bosses the first season. Unfortunately, there are not that many in corporate America, and the ones we went too were a bit more cautious about whether they would want to participate."
In the series, the heads of companies go undercover to work lower-level jobs, which may educate them on strengths and weaknesses in the company they run.
Said Lambert: "It's a real big deal for any boss to take part. It's a risk because of what could be uncovered. The bosses have no editorial control, and they have to be very courageous to do this. When we first started, a lot of bosses were reluctant to sign on -- they wanted to see what the show was like, and whether it would be successful."
The series turned out to be one of the network's biggest hits of last season. "Because of the success of the show, we have a lot more interest from people we had approached before," Lambert said. "They're lining up a lot more."
-- Greg Braxton
Photo: Kim Schaefer of Great Wolf Resorts. Credit: CBS Publicity