Posted last night by Raw Story‘s Kati Holloway: “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 [and] emotional exploitation and packages them all neatly into a despicable hour of primetime television. Kicking off each episode with the question ‘What would you do with $101,000?’, the show 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.”
Holloway suggests that the idea for The Briefcase almost certainly came from the ‘Button, Button‘ episode on the relaunched ’80s version of The Twilight Zone. It’s highly unlikely that the team behind The Briefcase wasn’t at least aware of this precedent, and given this you have to wonder what kind of cold-blade shitheels decided to produce this show…God!
Based on an original 1970 story by Richard Matheson, ‘Button Button‘ is about a financially hurting couple (chipper, upbeat Brad Davis and bitter, cigarette-smoking layabout Mare Winningham) who are given a wooden box with a red button and then visited by a tall creepy guy who offers a weird deal. If they push the button, he explains, they’ll receive $200 grand as a tax-free gift but someone they don’t know will die. Davis doesn’t want anything to do with the proposition but after some delay Winningham pushes the button. The creepy guy returns to reclaim the box and deliver the $200K. He also mentions to Winningham that the next person to receive the box won’t know her. She realizes in a flash that she’s dead, that each button pusher will be killed by the next one.
The Briefcase “focuses on two debt-strapped families 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.
“Both families are informed that somewhere out there there’s another family also in need, and are given a choice: ‘You can keep all of the money, you can keep some of the money, or you can give it all away.’ Neither family knows that the other family also has a suitcase full of cash and is debating how much, if any, they’ll share. What follows, predictably, is a gut-wrenching look at the two families being guilted this way and that over whether to choose charity or financial survival.”