The best analysis of the boss-lackey relationship has to be the Monkey Tree. I can't remember who told me about the Monkey Tree - it wasn't a monkey I can assure you - but this non-monkey, naughty monkey, was most certainly right. Or, in corporate-speak, 110 per cent right.

The Monkey Tree analogy goes like this: the workplace is like a tall tree full of monkeys. The ones at the top of the tree look down, and all they see are smiling faces. The ones down the tree look up, and all they see are arseholes.

How that makes me laugh. It makes me laugh at 110 per cent, in fact.

Inevitably the Monkey Tree came swiftly to mind during the first episode of a programme called (to be said in a sonorous voice) Undercover Boss USA (TV One, Tuesdays, 8.30pm). The set-up for this reality show is, as the title spells out, the conceit that the head monkey of a giant American corporation goes, in disguise, among his minions to discover how they truly feel about working for him and his vile capitalist mincing machine.

So I deemed it entirely appropriate that the first boss to try this was one Larry O'Donnell III, the president of Waste Management, the biggest trash company in North America.

This is not to suggest that Undercover Boss Ew-Es-Ah - it sounds like a chant doesn't it? - is trash, just that I think it is entirely possible that it is a load of rubbish. How can a boss hope to get the honest opinions of his staff if he is being followed around by a camera guy, a sound guy and possibly a director guy?

Certainly Larry - he calls himself Larry, and so will I - and his TV crew spun a line about him being some almost-bum (he signalled this by not shaving) who was doing a minor TV show about what it was like apply for godawful jobs at Waste Management. However this particular canard seemed to be an example of how management always makes the assumption that the people they hire are smiling morons (while we, as discussed, ... ).

In any case, I liked Larry. He seemed to genuinely care about his pseudo-experiment and appeared genuinely touched by the man who did his job despite two-decades of weekly dialysis, the woman doing the work of four people (but being paid for one) while supporting three families, and the female rubbish truck driver forced to piddle into a tin can because her tight schedule meant she couldn't take comfort stops.

Yes, he seemed genuinely distressed at their plight. And they seemed genuinely emotional when Larry - in the show's big reveal - told them who he was and how he was going to help them. Curiously Larry didn't seemed to grasp a more significant problem: that of the five individuals he spent time with while 'undercover' - out of a total of 50,000 employees - at least four of them were being treated badly in terms of pay, conditions or both. A small sample, agreed, but if one were to extrapolate that across his US$13 billion ($18.94 billion) business, up to 40,000 of his employees are being screwed one way or another.

And so it goes, I suppose. Though Larry did appear to make good on his promise to help these five in a corporate video-style rah-rah session at the end, I just couldn't help wondering how the other 39,995 were going to carry on working for that, well, as discussed ...

If Undercover Boss You-Ass-Eh is a postcard from the business of America - ie, Big Business - the odd, compelling Generation Kill (8.30pm Mondays, TV One) is a postcard from the edge of America's other great talent, war.

Make no mistake, this is satire, a skewering of America at war - in this instance in Iraq. It's not always laugh-out-laugh satire, but is incredibly droll, smart-bomb satire which "lights up" everything in range. Generation Kill is also full of bosses - "awffisers" as they call them in the Yo-Ass Marine Corps - who also have no idea what the hell their minions think of them.

The show's grunts are smart, wisecracking and full of bravado - at least for now. They are caricatures, but they're also liberal Hollywood's eloquent, hilarious, sketches of working guys just doing their jobs in the face of incompetence. Their bosses, well, they are much more frightening than poor Larry.

They are, either, obviously insane, self-mythologising egomaniacs who talk about themselves in the third person (unit leader "The Godfather"), demonstrably insane cowards (the guy in charge of Alpha Company) or just plain insane (the company's bonkers sergeant major).

The show's chief, not-so-subtle potshot appears to be that the ineptness of this Marine unit's leaders (barring one) increases as it goes up the chain of command. And we know who, in 2003, was top of America's chain of command - the biggest, mad monkey of them all.