What would you do if $101,000 landed on your doorstep?
Across America hard-working families are feeling the impact of rising debts and shrinking paychecks. These tough times are testing the human spirit. Now, comes a new series that will make you question what really matters most.
So begins the teaser-trailer for CBS’ new reality show, The Briefcase. The idea of the show is this: hand two families in dire financial straits a bunch of money — $101,000 to be exact. Watch them break into tears as they begin to believe that for some reason they have hit a lotto of sorts — that their financial situation is about to change slightly because a major television network has deemed them “worthy” of assistance. Then, throw them a curve. I mean, we can’t just walk around handing deserving, financially-strapped families cash, can we? That wouldn’t make for good television.
What would make for good television would then be requiring them to pass some sort of public moral test. Both of these families are given the option to hold onto all the money, donate some of it, or donate all of it to another family. The show’s host explains, “If you decide not to keep it all, whatever is left is going to go help another family who may be in as much need, or maybe more, than you.”
The two families per episode are both given a briefcase and they are actually contemplating whether to give any to each other. They don’t know this. Each family thinks they are the only one holding the cash, deciding whether to part with any. Over the next 72 hours, they will be sent information about each other: things like — what their financial situation is, what their political affiliations are, and what their health background is. They then get to “secretly visit” each other’s lives. Translation: a television crew takes them to snoop around the other family’s house when they’re not there. The show culminates with the families facing each other for a big reveal.
Faced with the decision to lift your family out of financial hardship, or to hold a helping hand to another family in need. What would you do?
I’ve been in a place where I didn’t know how I was going to make my rent payment. I’ve been in a place where I didn’t know how I was going to afford clothes for my children. I’m supremely lucky that I had family I was able to fall back on during that time, but a lot of people do not. Making entertainment out of the very real struggle such a huge percentage of Americans face every day is despicable. Forcing them to prove how virtuous they are in the face of adversity is gross. You spend some time wondering whether you’ll be able to afford to keep a roof over you child’s head next month, and tell us all how easily you would be able to part with some financial relief.
As Vulture points out, Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp, earned over $54 million last year. His daily take home is nearly double the annual median income in the United States. That bears repeating: he makes double what the average American family makes a year in one day. The families on his network’s new gross show are agonizing over an amount of money that he could easily set on fire without thinking twice about it. He has the power to drag all of these families out of their financial situations. Now, no one expects incredibly wealthy people to just hand out money — but there is something really perverse about making a spectacle out of the suffering of the poor when you have the ability to end that suffering, and instead you’re using these families to pad your pockets even more. But I guess that’s capitalism.