There has been an incredible amount of backlash on the information superhighway about CBS’ newest reality television show, The Briefcase. If you’ve been too busy following real news stories (like various presidential bids, murder rates being at an all-time high in Baltimore, FIFA finally getting a little of the comeuppance it deserves, etc.), basically, the show is about two families that each receive a briefcase full of money amounting to $101,000, and they have to decide whether to keep the money or give it to the other family in need. The twist, which is as important to reality TV as concrete is to American infrastructure, is that neither family knows that the other family has received a briefcase.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is absolutely awful. However, many people have made that point already, and, as our world is already clogged up enough by misinformation and restatements, that isn’t specifically what this article is about.
What CBS is doing is pitting two families against one another in a real prisoner’s dilemma. Except with a nice, sparkly reality TV twist: the two families don’t even know they’re playing the game. It’s rough enough on people to make them choose to be selfless, but with just enough empathy, a family that is in need of money won’t receive it. How can that be a good thing?
Families in need are exactly that – “in need.” Are we really supposed to get off on how amazing it is that someone would put aside his/her needs to help someone else? Why is that actually a good thing? If CBS really wanted people to come together and feel good about themselves, then how about they just make a show where poor people with a specific need have that need met? Hell, just have it be a show of homeless people receiving one nice item that they ask for. I’d probably watch that (maybe I’m part of the problem).
Salon calls The Briefcase “altruism porn,” but I want to take it a step further. It’s actually exploitation porn. For shame, CBS, and for shame, Leslie Moonves. According to the show itself, “Money isn’t everything.” Here’s what CBS needs to remember, though: money isn’t everything only when you have it. Otherwise, it’s the difference between feeding your family and losing your house. So yeah, it really is everything to 99% of us.
Now, back to watching Cops reruns (you know, the good kind of poverty exploitation).