How CBS's The Briefcase continues a long American tradition of putting the poor under a microscope

The Briefcase examines the ethical agonies of those struggling to make it. But what about the wealthy?

Briefcase

Have you heard of The Briefcase? The reality TV show debuted last week on CBS, and was the most watched of the three premieres that night. I wasn't among the viewers, but a number of other writers were. And man, it's gotten them talking.

The premise is deviously surgical: A family "experiencing financial setbacks" is given a briefcase with $101,000. That first $1,000 is for them to spend as they'd like, to get a taste of life without constant anxiety about the checkbook. Then comes the twist: The family is presented with an anonymous second family, in economic straits as bad or worse. Family number one then has to decide how much, if any, of the $100,000 to share. They actually go through several iterations of the decision-making process, with increasingly more information provided about the second family's bills, debts, and struggles.

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