With income inequality at an all-time high in America, Hollywood producers, people who know what it’s like to struggle because their assistants botched their lunch reservations last week, have devised a solution to the problem: pit struggling families against each other for a briefcase full of cash.
That’s the premise behind the new CBS reality show The Briefcase, where two American families faced with extreme financial difficulties are presented with a briefcase containing $101,000 in cash, or what the Koch brothers would call “pocket change.” Once these people actually have the potentially life-changing money in their hands, producers begin emotionally manipulating them, because this is a reality show. (The creator/executive producer of the show, Dave Broome, unsurprisingly also created The Biggest Loser, the show that posits that putting fat people in shirts that say “Loser” and screaming at them is the key to sustainable weight loss.)
Anyway, the contestants are then informed that they have three options: they can keep the money, give some of the money away to another struggling family, or give all of the money away. Over the next 72 hours, each family is then bombarded with details about the hardships another family is going through, sprinkled with a bit of Wife Swap-style stereotype baiting—one episode will pair up a married lesbian couple with a family of gun-toting Christian conservatives from Texas, for example—all while presumably being coached on the importance of selflessness off camera. After this three-day guilt trip, the families are brought face to face and informed that, unbeknownst to them, there were two briefcases full of cash the whole time. Realizing that the painful moral reckoning they just went through was completely unnecessary, their decisions are then revealed. It’s kind of like The Gift Of The Magi: The TV Show.
In an interview with EW, Broome says that the show is a test of “the human spirit,” saying, “These days, with paychecks shrinking, we wanted to tackle human values in a big and loud way.” And let’s not forget, should these contestants manage to successfully navigate this moral and emotional land mine and take home any of the money, they will face a heavy tax burden on those winnings. That’s opposed to those who earned their money the old-fashioned way, by which we mean inheriting it from their dads.