For making feel-good entertainment for the general public, the producers of Undercover Boss chose well when they selected Frontier's chief honcho, Bryan Bedford. The deeply-religious, Catholic father of eight, is chatty and personable and you just can't help liking him. He comes off as interested in people and genuinely touched when his travels give him the chance to meet fellow Christians and learn how different their lives are from his.
Yes, what a difference! The airline boss lives in a palatial Colorado estate landscaped to the hilt. Brief clips of home life show the Bedford brood, roller-blading in their own private indoor rink, but during his week on the tarmac, Bedford's wearing a polyester, company-issued uniform and eating a sandwich out of a sack with co-workers trained to keep one eye on the clock.
Aviation does not lend itself to transient laborers. Not only is there an entire language of acronyms to be learned, there are mountains of regulations and countless procedures that - no matter how modest the job - must be followed by each employee in order to safely move millions of travelers and their things from place to place, every single day. This means that in reality-television jobs are simplified to the point of absurdity.
Cleaning an airliner after 200 people have had their way with it may not be rocket science, but there's more involved than a cursory wipe of the toilet and a repositioning of safety belts. Yeah, sure its funny when Richard gets to experience first (rubber-gloved) hand how airplane toilets are emptied under the supervision of the safely-distanced Hector, who is wearing his own rubber gloves along with a splash mask.
|Jan Brown flight attendant |
on United flight 232
receives NADA air safety award
All of this is to say that for an aviation geek, Undercover Boss was a disappointment, in spite of Frontier's genial boss. Bedford aka Richard went to the right places, to the hardworking folks behind-the-scenes, who are too often eclipsed by the glamour of swaggering pilots and the high-flying ways of airline executives. And Bedford was able to convince me that his heart is in the right place.
But you just can't reduce commercial aviation to a made-for-TV presentation, even in a highly produced one. The business is just too big for that.