US reality show The Briefcase: life-changing moment or preying on the vulnerable?

The premise for upcoming CBS Reality show The Briefcase is pretty simple: $101,000 arrives in a briefcase on the doorstep of a family who is struggling. They can keep the money, decide to share some of it or all of it with another struggling family.

What they don’t know is that the other struggling family also has a $101,000 briefcase with the same proposal. Both families are given all kinds of information about how the other family is doing it tough. Cameras capture them all getting emotionally wrought at their various backstories, but there is drama in who will decide to keep and who will decide to give cash away.

As this video shows, some are in tears and others are screaming at one another. Presumably some will end up coming out of the show as saints, and others as driven by money.

Frankly it sounds gross. I suppose for $101,000 it’s worth being put through the angst. But if they give the money away and are still tearing at each others’ throats then they were probably better off before the film crew entered their lives.

Like Undercover Boss, it’s also questionable whether participants will be duped in a second season knowing how the construct works, but CBS says it has enough format variations up its sleeve for a second and third season.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

8 Comments:

  1. oztvheritage

    I always like the idea of a reality check and people discovering that there are people out there in a worse position than themselves. In today’s world we (in general) have become “it’s all about us” and “i want it now” and “others like government should do more for me” I think it sounds interesting. But being a US production it will be over the top!

  2. Secret Squïrrel

    I’ve got a better idea. Why not put the two families in a cage – winner takes all the cash. Someone’s prob already pitched that.

  3. I imagine this as say a feast being offered to two starving families and then them needing to deal with the produced guilt about having to make a choice. It’s watching people in meltdown. Not for me but Americans seem more used to this sort of thing.

  4. It’s just a version of a sort behavioral psychology experiment. Usually they are testing some value like fairness across cultures.

    This one is just measuring greed vs empathy for generating conflict for TV. As you know you are being manipulated by a TV network for others entertainment. You just take the $101,000 and refuse to negotiate. That is also what classical economics models assume will happen.

    • Actually, it’s even simpler than that.

      At worst, if you just take the money without agonising over it, the TV show is going to make you out to be a bastard. At the same time, they’re not going to leave people thinking they’re bastards by not giving money to the other family too.

      So the cynical you, informed by your knowledge of their own self-interest, has no qualms about keeping all the money.

      It’d be a very short episode if I was on it…

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