Chances are you missed Undercover Billionaire: Comeback City when it premiered last week, as Discovery scheduled it behind the Undercover Billionaire season 2 opener. But the spinoff, which continues tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, is blowing the original series out of the water.
Comeback City brings back season 1 star Glenn Stearns in a cross between The Profit and Bar Rescue (so it will appeal to anyone who loves those series). Glenn travels to various businesses and uses his knowledge, along with the help of new experts, to turn the struggling companies around. Two aspects make the show just a bit different: each episode takes place over 27 days, much longer than any other business-reality show, and it’s set entirely in Erie, PA.
In this week’s episode entitled “All Hustle, No Cash Flow,” Glenn collaborates with Michael Hooks, the owner-operator of Michael’s Car Care. But Glenn quickly discovers that Michael’s real passion is his non-profit organization, and he’s soon trying to save both the business and the charity.
These types of shows really rest on personality, and Glenn Stearns is a natural for this space. He has the ability to explain his business principles simply, as he does during several to-camera segments, but he’s also someone the audience wants to follow. Early on in this episode he and Michael have a discussion about what they overcame in their history, and the viewer can feel that they genuinely do relate to one another – it’s not a forced emotional moment for reality TV.
Glenn is both knowledgeable and personable; he sets the tone for the entire show, and that’s particularly on display in this episode, when it becomes more about helping Michael help others than the car care business. The two men have a common mission that’s bigger than one company, and that elevates this episode to be more than just another business turnaround story.
Glenn also brings in some truly interesting experts; this episode features Chef Jeff Henderson, whom Food Network viewers will recall from the underrated The Chef Jeff Project in 2006. (Food Network and Discovery are sister channels.) It only adds to the show to see these people come in and help, whereas in other series it can be a distraction or a gimmick.
Undercover Billionaire: Comeback City isn’t perfect; the fact that Glenn works with each business for 27 days means that sometimes the audience gets only a small snippet of an event because the producers have to cram more than three weeks into a 42-minute installment. It might be better to show less and dig into some developments, or principles, more.
Also, while the experts are great, Glenn’s the real personality that drives the show with his warmth and hard work, so the series has to be careful not to have him just be the facilitator. The success of the show is going to rest on him being at the heart and seeing him involved in each company, the way he was with his business in the first season of Undercover Billionaire.
Glenn Stearns had his own comeback story in that season, and it’s wonderful that he’s staying in the TV space and continuing to use that platform to help others, especially in the city that he spent 90 days undercover in. There’s a good feeling with this show that America can take comfort in right now, and it’s well worth staying up late to take the journey.
Undercover Billionaire: Comeback City airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery. The complete season 1 is also now streaming on Discovery+.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.