A cookie-cutter combination of “Undercover Boss” and “The Apprentice,” ‘‘Be the Boss” (9 p.m. Sunday, A&E;) makes its debut. This shamelessly unoriginal series may not be memorable, but it marks a milestone of sorts. It represents the moment when product placements completely took over a show, leaving participants with little of their own to say.
Every episode of “Boss” pits two employees of a franchise-based company against each other in a series of business-related tests. Participants think they’ve been called by the bosses to audition for a new job or a promotion. They have no idea that their prize will be to get a franchise of their very own.
Reality television has often been about office dynamics and work drama. Folks first flocked to “Survivor” because the scheming shenanigans of people like Richard Hatch reminded them of the fools they had to endure or circumvent on the job. “The Apprentice” allowed people to play at work assignments and made stars of unknowns before settling into the rut of “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Work as a reality show culminated with the British and American versions of “The Office,” a scripted/improvised comedy pretending to be a documentary about people going to work without doing much work at all.
In many ways, “Boss” is like an episode of “The Office” that’s stripped of every ounce of humor, particularly irony. The first installment features two eager employees of Complete Nutrition, a combination gym and nutritional supplement company. He’s a former Marine and would-be country singer and she’s a former beauty queen who lost her tanning salon business in a bad breakup.
By the end of the episode, you have to pity both of them after they’ve been forced to regurgitate so many pitches for Complete Nutrition and its many products.
Sunday’s other highlights
•Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): hospital fraud; North Korea’s political prisoners; a solar-powered airplane attempts an around-the-world flight.
• The Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles in “Sunday Night Football” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Alliances shift and Margaret makes a choice on the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Saul takes charge on “Homeland” (9 p.m., Showtime).