Kali Holloway, AlterNet
30 May, 2015 | As if to prove there are new depths to be plumbed in the world of reality television (because who knew?), CBS just debuted The Briefcase, a show which takes poverty porn, class anxiety, emotional manipulation and exploitation and packages them all neatly into a pretty despicable hour of primetime television. Kicking off each episode with the question, “What would you do with $101,000?” the show then deep-dives into a competition that asks two unwitting, financially strapped families to choose between two no-win options: being financially solvent yet appearing heartless and greedy, or drowning in debt yet having audiences recognize them as selfless and giving.
It’s hard to imagine a network executive didn’t get the idea for this show from the “Button, Button” episode of the Twilight Zone. The Briefcase focuses on two “middle-class” families—a questionable but highly American take on the phrase, since both are debt saddled, with one primary breadwinner, and essentially living on the edge of financial ruin. Both are told they’ll be participating in a documentary about money. Instead, a producer from the show unexpectedly comes to their house with a suitcase full of cold, hard cash: $101,000 to be exact. That could be a life-changing – and in the case of families so near the financial cliff, nearly life-saving – sum of money. But this being reality TV, instead of just giving them the cash, there’s a major catch.
Kali Holloway: Associate Editor, Media and Culture at AlterNet
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The United States of Cruelty, Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
- We are cheap. We are suspicious. We will shoot first. It does not have to be this way. Like Lincoln before us, it is time to do something about it.
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