Families are faced with the decision of keeping all $101,000 or giving it away to another family in need...
Last Wednesday, CBS aired the first episode of their new series The Briefcase. The show follows struggling American families who are suddenly given $101,000 – but also a choice.
After families dramatically explain their personal hardships, they are elated to be presented with the large sum of cash and a seeming end to their financial woes. The catch is, though, they can either keep the money or give some or all of it to another needy family.
Of course, it basically traps a family between two no-win situations: do they choose financial solvency yet appear heartless and greedy? Or do they decide to drown in debt yet have an audience recognize them as selfless and giving?
What they don’t know is that the other family also has a suitcase full of cash and is debating how much, if any, they’ll share.
While at first glance it seems like an odd good-samaritan type show that reminds the viewer there’s more to life than money, what it is really doing is exploiting the financial hardships of Americans in exchange for profit.
First, the families participating thought they were signing up to be featured in a documentary, not this television show horror. Second, it’s a show in which poverty porn, class anxiety, emotional manipulation and exploitation are all packed into one pretty despicable hour of primetime television. Need we say more?
A promotion trailer was released by the network showing the dramatic clippings and emotional strain experienced by the families when presented with the Faustian decision. You can watch that below:
As you can imagine, critics took to the internet to share their disapproval at record pace:
Keep in mind, $101,000 is a lot of money – especially to families in a stressful amount of debt, but that is nothing for CBS chief Les Moonves, who in 2014 made over $54 million (according to Vulture). In other words, he made more in one day last year than the entire family is competing for.
Rather than gawking at poverty, perhaps CBS could instead conjure up ways it might be eliminated.
“The whole thing is, in a word, gross. We’re told via voiceover at the show’s outset that, “All across America, hard-working, middle-class families are feeling the impact of rising debt and shrinking paychecks.” That’s absolutely true, and CBS’s answer to that problem is apparently to exploit those families in ways that startle, even at this stage in the reality TV game.”
While of course different than Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, it is still, in essence, a sick scenario to expose families to for the sake of profit and consumer entertainment.
What are your thoughts? Share in the comments section below.