I watched the worst thing on television so you don’t have to
Now, I must be honest with you, when it comes to my entertainment, I love anything and everything. No matter how crass, insane, flamboyant or even terrifying, for years I have always been a rabid consumer of books, film, music and art that most sensible people would find revolting. But, as everyone does and will eventually find out, things change as you get older.
On May 30th, 2015, I sat down at my computer and watched a new reality show on C.B.S, titled “The Briefcase”, this television show from the producers of the equally awful “The Biggest Loser” follows two desperate American families in a real life version of a Matheson story.
What do I mean by that? Well, in this sterling piece of programming on the Tiffany Network, two families are led to believe they are participating in a documentary about wealth. In the opening moments, a producer shows up outside each of their doors with a briefcase full of one hundred and one thousand dollars. They can choose to keep all of it, some of it, or give it all away to another family who may be just as hard up in the next 3 days. Yes, that’s really it.
What follows is one of the crassest and exploitative things I have ever seen in all my years traveling the earth. I would expect this kind of thing to be done by a cruel warlord in sub-Saharan Africa, but not in America. Here, I like to think even coked up television executives are capable of reminding themselves of the decency and morals given to them as they grew older.
I was wrong. For starters, the cinematic abortion that is this show begins displaying its horridness in the opening credits. As the hippy dippy music plays in the background, the viewer is treated to some glimpses of upcoming episodes. Including one in which a lesbian couple is matched with a fastidiously conservative family from Texas. No one will come out of that episode looking too good. I could be wrong, but my instincts tell me that I really am not.
After the title ends and the scenery come into view, one is introduced to the two families on the very first episode of this pilot from Hell. In one corner, the Bronson’s from New Hampshire. Dave is an Iraq War Veteran with a missing leg and his wife Amanda (I think that’s her name, I was really just looking on in horror and I can’t really recall) is a nurse. They’re both in debt to around $80000 dollars. In the other side of this show that’s akin to two hobos fighting over a piece of meat, we have the Bergin’s from North Carolina. Kim is the breadwinner and makes all the financial decisions (Based on research, she may have gotten her family into this situation with her insane stupidity.) and Joe is a struggling ice cream salesman with medical problems.
Once these two couples are presented with the offer, the predictable shock and excitement comes up. Kim grabs a hundred dollar bill and sticks it to her forehead, while Amanda and Dave sit in a bit of stunned silence. Over the next 3 days, the husband and wife on each side are made to choose individually how much to give to the other family as they find about more about them before making a decision together and in person in front of the other family on the last day.
Now, I really don’t want to write too much about this show, so I’ll just give you some of the terrible cliff notes that I jotted down during my viewing of this thing. Amazingly, I didn’t vomit after the thing had come to an end (It thankfully has a feel good ending to it. That’s a plus.).
As the 3 days unfold, each family is given information about the other through text message. Really, that’s what the producers thought was a good idea. Bottom line is, if you can’t break up with someone over it, it shouldn’t be used to torture the poor and those who are struggling.
After the first money giveaway decision, Joe Bergin (Who I get the sense is ruled by his witch of a wife and 3 daughters.) dramatically reveals to his family that he wants to give away the full hundred thousand to the other group. Instead of lauding her husband for doing the right thing, the insufferable harpy he’s married to says she wants to beat him with $100 dollar bills for being so dumb. Maybe if she hadn’t thrown a crazy party for her kids in the past, they wouldn’t be so screwed financially. The first rule of money, always live within your means dear reader.
And finally, the last horrible thing on this show occurred just before the in person meet up. To really screw with the heads of these desperate people, the producers fly them out to each other’s homes. At the Bronson’s, Dave’s prosthetic legs and Purple Heart are prominently displayed (Read: Staged) and predictably send the Bergin’s into a tailspin. At the other home, the Bronson family was allowed to walk around and poke through the bedrooms of the 3 daughters. Now that is really sick. No child deserves to have their private space examined on national television.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the show mercifully had a feel good ending. Though that happened in the pilot, I don’t see it occurring that often in the future. I hope this god awful thing gets cancelled and sent to the depths of programming archive Hell. “The Briefcase” gets an F grade from me, for being a piece of television that is stunningly demeaning to its subjects.