The producers of “Undercover Boss” were somewhat surprised at how far Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller was willing to go in an episode of the CBS series that airs Friday, Feb. 28.
Working as a ticket-taker or in concessions is one thing. Joining the dunk team was something else.
“There’s a significant element of risk associated with a 47-year-old fully embracing the mini-tramp,” Miller said with a laugh. “It’s one of those things that, if you don’t give it everything you’ve got, it’s not going to work.
“I was using muscles that I hadn’t used since, like, fifth-grade gym class.”
One thing that quickly became clear to the show’s producers was that Miller wasn’t in this to become a star.
“It was obvious to me that Greg wasn’t really too impressed with being on a TV show,” said “Boss” executive producer Chris Carlson. “He truly appreciated the concept of our show in its purest form.”
Miller had never seen “Undercover Boss” before he was asked this past summer to participate. So he went home, watched a couple of episodes and was pleasantly surprised.
“I wanted to make sure that the program was consistent with our values as a family and as an organization,” he said. “And I actually liked what I saw. I thought it was a pretty cool show.”
In each episode, the boss dons a disguise and goes undercover within his/her company. The employees are told the disguised boss is being filmed for an entirely different kind of show.
Part of the fun is seeing the boss struggle with the various jobs. Which Miller did.
“I know that the missteps and the mistakes are what makes for great television,” he said.
But it isn’t all about the laughs. The Jazz CEO said he learned a lot doing the episode.
“It was a very eye-opening experience for me to see firsthand some of the challenges that our employees are faced with,” Miller said. “Not only were we able to help them in what I think are very meaningful ways in their personal lives, but my experience inspired me to work with my family to create a new resource for our employees organizationwide that wouldn’t exist were it not for my experience with ‘Undercover Boss.’ ”
Viewers will learn more about that in Friday’s episode.
“Greg was confident enough to investigate the negative instead of just celebrating the positive,” Carlson said. “I think, overall, he was successful in his goal of strengthening his operation while honoring the memory of his father.”
Miller learns not only what his employees do, but who they are.
“And it was gratifying,” he said. “I went into this thinking that our employees like being part of our family business. I was really hoping that, more than anything, that notion would be validated. And, as it turned out, it was.”
At the same time, “Undercover Boss” goes for laughs. So if the boss struggles working behind the concessions counter or in the stands at EnergySolutions Arena with the Interactive Team, it’s all good.
“I’ve seen a couple of clips, and anything that was a challenge to me is likely to make it in the final ,” Miller said. “What I’ve told my family and friends is that, if nothing else, it will be good for a lot of laughs.”
The best part of the show for viewers — and for Miller — comes when his disguise comes off and he reveals himself to the employees with whom he’s worked. And rewards them in ways “that will change their lives.”
“Probably my favorite take-away of the experience is just the impact our family was able to have on their families,” Miller said. “When I could reveal who I was and tell them what we wanted to do for them and see their reaction.”
The disguise took about three hours the first time. One woman fitted Miller with a wig and then trimmed it. Another did the beard, stained his teeth and fitted him with contact lenses. And he was fitted with a false paunch.
“Then I walked out where my family was waiting for me, and they were all surprised at the transformation,” Miller said. “And they laughed.”
The disguise was fairly easy. The harder part of being the “Undercover Boss” was the stint on the dunk team. When the time came to perform, he was sore from the workout and starting to get sick.
“I was concerned enough during the warm-ups that I had to call for a wardrobe check just so that I could get out of the practice,” Miller said. “I was afraid if I kept practicing, I wouldn’t have enough energy to actually dunk during the game.”
Greg Miller’s episode of “Undercover Boss” airs tonight, at 7 on CBS/Ch. 2.