Fox Turns Real Firings Into Entertainment in Reality TV Show

you are fired

Some people will do anything to get on television, including getting fired from a job while the world watches, like in Donald Trump's "The Apprentice."

But what if you were fired not by the Donald, not even by your own boss but by your co-workers, peeping over the cubicles surrounding you?

VIDEO: Getting Laid Off on TVPlay

Fox's controversial new reality television show "Somebody's Gotta Go" plans to answer the question even if the cost is, as some critics have suggested, far too high.

"This is treating a real-life situation -- one of the most difficult in someone's life -- as if it's a game. That's wrong," John Challenger, CEO of outplacement consulting firmChallenger, Gray and Christmas Inc., told "Good Morning America."

Reality TV Turns Workers Against One Another

The show will highlight a small business that needs to downsize because of the economy, but instead of the bosses deciding who gets the axe, co-workers must choose who among them has to go. Workers will have to defend themselves, justifying their work habits, all leading to a group discussion to determine who gets dumped.

To help make their decision, employees will have access to each others' usually private records including budgets, human resources files and salaries.

According to Challenger, such high-profile firings go beyond disrespectful and could even put the axed employee at risk for mental illness.

"Telling someone they are losing their job is such a private matter," he said. "That person deserves the respect of not having others to witness it. Losing one's job is one of the biggest issues people face in their lives. There is a grieving process. Letting someone go in a public way certainly could lead to depression and other sorts of mental health risks."

While Challenger believes the show to be in bad taste in general, other critics say it is making its debut at an especially insensitive time, playing on people's fears during a time of rampant unemployment.

Internet message boards lit up with outrage over news of the show.

"Many of us don't need a reality show for this," one commenter wrote. "We live or lived it."

"How low can you go?" another wrote.

Entertainment Companies Struggle to Get Jaded Public's Attention

But angry Internet message boards are unlikely to deter the show's creator Mike Darnell, Fox president of alternative entertainment, and the brains behind other envelope-pushing reality hits like "Big Brother" and "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?"

"There are always going to be shows that are tough to sell. Period," Darnell said. "I've been through that my entire career. [It] doesn't mean you don't need to do them; you need to be on the cutting edge."

Some observers say that cutting edge can run pretty deep with a jaded American public.

"You need to do something that will get people's attention," TV Week's Joe Adalian said. "This show will get people's attention. Right now, I think the only thing off limits are public executions."

Entertainment company Endomel, which produces the show, said the episodes don't prey on fear, but rather empower employees by putting the firing power in their hands.

An Endomel spokesperson told The Associated Press it had "absolutely no trouble" finding companies willing to participate in the show.

No air date has been set for the show's first episode.