Darius Rucker prowls Austin in new ‘Undercover Boss’ episode

Darius Rucker performs at the Frank Erwin Center.

Austin is front and center Friday night in a celebrity edition of the hit CBS show “Undercover Boss.”

In the episode, Darius Rucker, lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish and, on his own, a country superstar, relies on heavy-duty makeup to hide his true identity as he poses as a roadie, hosts an open-mic night and tours the Sixth Street Entertainment District.

His goal? Locate undiscovered talent.

The show was taped over the course of several days during one of Rucker’s visits to Austin last year.

“I’ve been in the music business for a long time, and this is an experience I will never forget,” Rucker said in a news release promoting the episode. “Our industry is all about cultivating and sharing great music, so having the opportunity to go undercover and authentically participate in an artist’s early days was just incredible.”

It’s not the first time “Undercover Boss” has visited Austin. The show followed the owner of Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill in a controversial episode that aired in 2014.

Rucker’s episode of “Undercover Boss” airs at 7 p.m. Friday on CBS Austin.

Bikinis owner criticized after ‘Undercover Boss’ appearance

Doug Guller
Doug Guller

The founder of the Austin-based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain is catching all kinds of heat on social media after an appearance last night on the CBS network’s “Undercover Boss.”

In the episode, Doug Guller posed as an entry-level employee, working at five Bikinis locations scattered across Texas — three in the Dallas area, one in San Antonio and the original location near Highland Mall in North Austin.

Preliminary figures show more than 9 million households tuned in nationwide, according to TV By the Numbers.

At the end of the episode, Guller revealed his true identity to workers at the restaurants — and that’s when the drama kicked into high gear.

Guller, who started Bikinis about nine years ago, is being criticized by viewers for firing an employee who had declined to wear a bikini top and for offering to pay for breast augmentation for a different worker, among other things.

(To be fair, the “breastaurant” owner — Guller trademarked the term in 2013 — also gave one employee a 30 percent raise and $10,000 for a family vacation and offered to help another worker with housing and medical expenses for her ill child.)

But the firing and the offer of free breast enhancement surgery, in particular, rubbed many the wrong way. Jezebel, for instance, said “Undercover Boss” had “stooped to depressing new lows.”

“This was a bad episode unleashing a bunch of unchecked (expletive) on a viewing audience that (judging by fans’ reactions on Twitter) didn’t want it. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that this level of blatant sexism no longer seems widely appreciated,” the Jezebel piece said, in part.

Guller hasn’t responded to the criticism yet. In a Tweet shortly after the broadcast, he thanked the show and told his employees, “Y’all rock.”

Bikinis owner Doug Guller featured on ‘Undercover Boss’

Doug Guller
Doug Guller

Look for Doug Guller, founder of the locally based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain, later this month on CBS’s “Undercover Boss.”

The episode will air Dec. 28.

Producers first contacted Guller about a year ago, he said. In October, they filmed at five different Bikinis locations – three in the Dallas area, one in San Antonio and one in North Austin, near Highland Mall.

At each location, Guller posed as an entry-level employee, with cameras rolling as he interacted with customers and co-workers. To avoid being recognized, he wore an elaborate disguise that included a wig, earrings, goatee and even eyeliner.

“It was a great opportunity to see what the team goes through behind the scenes,” Guller said. “I got to see just how hard their jobs really are.”

Most of the experiences were positive, Guller said, but it wouldn’t be reality TV without a little bit of drama. In the end, though, he said he’s happy with how things turned out – and he thinks you will be, too.

“It wraps up with what was, for me, a really heartfelt experience,” he said. “I think that’s what the people who watch will get out of it, too.”

Guller’s company, ATX Brands, also owns a number of other bars and restaurants, including The Parish, Scoot Inn, Pelons, Chicago House, Zorro and 508 Tequila Bar. A lot of projects are in the works right now – and that’ll continue well into 2015, Guller said, including the rollout of Gino’s East pizzerias in Austin and elsewhere across the state.

Together, the various ATX Brands businesses employ about 500 people.

“There’s a lot that goes into running a successful company,” Guller said. “We’ve got great people who are working hard to make things happen.”

‘Undercover Boss’

7:30 p.m. Dec. 28

CBS, KEYE Channel 42