Undercover Boss Review: Kleenex Required

March 1st, 2014 | by Laura Thompson
Monty Brinton/CBS

Monty Brinton/CBS

Last night’s episode of Undercover Boss started with Greg Miller, the CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, talking about the Jazz, the years they made it to the NBA Finals, etc. And then he started talking about the history of the Jazz and his father’s role in it: buying half the team in 1985, and the other half in 1986, with both transactions requiring him to give everything he had, and that it all came at a very high price. Basically, six minutes into the episode, I started tearing up. Someone tell me that’s a record for this show? Or someone tell me that I wasn’t the only one?

Then they showed a clip of Larry H. Miller: “Go about doing good until there is too much good in the world.”

Pass the Kleenex, please!

After showing the Miller family at their home in Sandy, Utah, and watching them pray over dinner, we saw Miller transformed into Mark Scott, the auto repair shop owner from Preston, Idaho, complete with a dark wig, fake beard, and a prosthetic stomach. While the flabby tummy may not have quite been to the Courtney Cox/Monica Gellar-fat-suit level of awesomeness, it still provoked a fantastic reaction from his wife, his kids, and the family pug, in what was possibly my favorite reaction shot of the night (though his wife’s giggling inability to give Greg goodbye kiss with his getup on was a close second for me).

Job 1: Game Operations Department

Dennis is the first employee we meet who is going to be GregMark’s “boss” for the day. Looking at GregMark, he says, “I thought Mark was going to be lazy. He was kind of sluggish in the midsection. Just fat. Looked fat.”

Dennis followed up the comedy with his two rules: “Don’t drop the Jazz floor because it’s my baby. Don’t drop my tables because they’re expensive.” Rule number one suddenly endeared himself not only to GregMark, but to Jazz fans everywhere, because the Jazz floor carries Larry H. Miller’s name. In case you needed something to push you into Kleenex territory at the 14-minute mark of this show, he says of the floor and Larry H. Miller, “It’s all we’ve got left of him. We’re going to take care of it.”

More Kleenex!

We saw the assembly of the floor, while GregMark noted some of the inefficiencies in the process and some of the wear-and-tear that had become noticeable on the wood. We were also introduced to Dennis’ story: he and his diabetic wife each work two jobs, they have two young girls, and one car with a $600 monthly payment. Ouch.

Job 2: Interactive Team Member

Amber was GregMark’s second boss, a positive, energetic young woman who was trying to get the very even-keel GregMark to get fans pumped up during the game. Amber gave us some fantastic nuggets, including this one commenting on GregMark’s first foray into the upper bowl with a promotion during the first timeout: “The first giveaway was a little rocky. Kind of just mozied up the stairs. Not a whole lot of energy. Might’ve been a little girly with a little leg kick in there. I dunno.”

Also, this gem: “Mark was an interesting character.”

During GregMark’s sitdown with Amber, we learn that she’s got a young brother with Down Syndrome, another brother who was in a car accident, was in a coma, and hasn’t been the same since. Seven years later, and her mother is still trying to pay off the medical bills. GregMark gave her significant praise, amazed that someone who’s gone through such difficult times could have such a positive face and such a positive energy, and he’s thrilled she’s part of the company.

Job 3: Dunk Team Member

This third segment provided possibly the most entertainment in the entire episode—at his own expense—and you have to give Miller some major marks for being game to try something like this, and to do so on national TV. With his prosthetic belly firmly in place, GregMark tried running and jumping on the tramps, trying to dunk the ball. Matt, the boss of the day, said, “Not sure if he can run and jump and do anything.”

After some practicing and some much-needed encouragement from the dunk team members, GregMark got the chance to try out his new skills in a game. As he walked by his family on the first row, their reactions to his getup and his “skills” were classic. On his first dunk, he came up just barely short, but the entire team gave him props for trying. He said of his new friends: “I just met them; they’ve made me feel like I’ve been part of the team for years.” This was one of the really impressive parts of the episode to me. These guys could have brushed off their new recruit: he didn’t look like them or have the skills or the athleticism they did, but they were genuinely encouraging, kind, and friendly, and that’s always encouraging to see.

We learned that Matt has two kids, both of whom he’d love to see more often. Being away from them is hard on Matt, and GregMark says he can sympathize because he knows how hard it would be on him if he were in the same situation.

Job 4: Concession Staff

We meet Manny, a high schooler who challenged GregMark to a competition: who can sell the most chicken baskets (chicken tenders) during halftime? As some of the folks in line were catching on to what was going on, one woman asked, “Why are you guys trying to sell chicken baskets so hard?”

Ice cream was on the line, and somehow GregMark, the rookie, beat out Manny. So while Manny fulfilled his end of the challenge and bought the winner an ice cream, they got to chatting about Manny’s story: his mother died in a car crash when he was 12 years old, and he talked about how he wanted to make himself useful; he wanted to make his mother proud. “I’ve got a lot of expectations for me, and I’ll achieve my goals no matter what.”

After they finish their ice cream, Greg offers to help Manny clean up, in a simple and understated manner that I thought was very impressive by the CEO of a multi-billion dollar organization.

The Reveal

Greg first revealed himself to Matt, the Dunk Team Leader, and talked about how he was blown away by Matt’s commitment and enthusiasm, that he gained a whole new appreciation for what Matt does to enhance the Utah Jazz fan experience. Greg said he wanted to bring both kids out to a game and have them enjoy a VIP experience so they can watch their dad perform. He also wanted to contribute $10,000 to each child’s college education, which really got to Matt, because that was something he said he couldn’t have done on his own.

Pass some more Kleenex!

The next reveal was to Dennis, and the look on his face when Greg revealed himself was just fantastic. Greg discussed how much it meant to him that Dennis would take such good care of the floor in his father’s name. He offered Dennis a promotion that would come with a raise; he also offered to pay off the loan for their family’s one car, along with buying the family a second car. He also wanted to send the family to Disneyland for a family trip. Dennis broke down at this point (and I may have followed within 0.047 seconds—more Kleenex!)) while saying, “That stuff doesn’t happen to people like me.” He was so gracious and appreciative, and excited to tell his girls they were heading to Disneyland. Good man.

Amber’s reveal was next, and Greg applauded her for putting him to work right away, and saying how impressed he was with her positive attitude. He offered $30,000 for medical bills, to which she replied, “Is this is a joke?” “This is not a joke.” She didn’t know what to say, other than this would take a lot of stress off her mom. Greg didn’t end there: he offered $20,000 to her to make life a little bit easier and thanked her for being such a great employee. Amber left us with a great bit of insight: “This experience has taught me to not lose faith in humanity.”

In case you had a few more Kleenex to use up, the final reveal was to Manny. In their conversation, Greg learned that Manny would be the first person in his family to graduate high school. When that happens, Greg wants Manny to let him know so he can attend his graduation, and so that he can invite him to sit with him during a Jazz game to celebrate. Beyond that, Greg offered a scholarship so Manny can realize his dream and graduate from college. Manny’s reaction was so touching—pass the Kleenex one last time!—and so genuine, as he said, “My dream has come true.”

This was a very touching episode and showed some of the unknown, unsung hard work that goes into making Jazz games a great experience. Greg, in his publicity tour this week, talked about how he knew they had great employees, and he was pretty sure that this experience would just validate what he already knew. We got to see, in a very entertaining and touching way, some of the great people behind the scenes. Thank you to Greg who was game to put himself in some embarrassing situations in order to better learn about some of the people that make things run smoothly and keep things entertaining during Jazz games.

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
Laura Thompson

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