Franchises Takes Center Stage in Reality TV

The hope is that by hanging out in the trenches, they will gain a better insight into how to improve their companies. What ends up happening in many cases is the CEOs are learning -- in some cases for the first time -- the difficulty and knowledge needed to do each job as well as the motivation behind the workers, many of whom suffer hardships, giving a human element to the show.

Next year, CNBC is expected to launch a show called "Franchised." It too will be a competition in which five contestants, each "high in qualifications, but short on cash," will vie for their own franchise to run.

"It's an emotional once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a shot at the American Dream," CNBC says in a press release.

A spokeswoman said the project is currently in development and declined to comment further.

Three shows covering franchising in less than three years -- why is franchising so hot in reality TV?

Professor Jim Farrelly, director of film studies at the University of Dayton in Ohio, says the shows keep popping up because they are cheap to produce, play well to the prized 18-49 demographic and "reward ordinary people who are just doing their jobs with extraordinary opportunities for advancement."

"Everybody loves a winner and the vicarious thrills that come from experiencing a show like 'Be the Boss' with the tagline, 'From Average Joe to CEO,'" Farrelly writes in an email.

Viewers ought to be aware of the heavy-handed editing in reality shows. While the filming might not be so scripted, the franchise brand is usually shown in the best light.

"My fear is that there will be a general misperception among Americans about franchising. They'll say, 'Oh it's this easy. ... This is something that will feed me for the rest of my life," says Don Sniegowski, founder of BlueMauMau, a blog about franchising. "This is dangerous ground. A franchise can be a wonderful thing, but if you get into the wrong concept, particularly with these new franchise systems, some of which are featured, it's dangerous."

There is also a concern about a brand, such as Complete Nutrition, that is still unknown to viewers. While the show may be good exposure for newer or smaller brand, and ultimately result in higher sales, is it a proven business?

"This is really high stakes for a person who makes a mistake and gets a franchise system that is a dud," Sniegowski says. "If they're going to be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars, they need to get a sense of the bigger picture."

Ryan Zink, president of Complete Nutrition, says he and founder and CEO Cory Wiedel (both featured in Sunday night's premiere) had plenty of discussion internally and with the producers before they agreed to the show.