Is anyone else appalled that Channel 9 has chosen to put this shit on television? This is the same channel whose Sixty Minutes producers chose to go with the bungled Lebanon kidnapping story. The same channel’s flagship news show, A Current Affair, has been nothing more than an infomercial for the past few years, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that they have chosen to pursue an Australian version of a show that was cancelled in the US in 2015, ostensibly because it was a ratings dud (read distasteful and unappealing to the viewing public).
The whole premise of The Briefcase exploits families who are disadvantaged or under stress by turning a moral dilemma into a spectacle. A family in need receives a case with $100k and then spends the rest of the show hearing about the disadvantage of another family in need with the view to deciding how much, if any, they will give to the other family. Therefore, The Briefcase seems to encourage the disenfranchised to enter into a demonstration of ‘my disadvantage is bigger than yours’ while we all watch on embracing our (their) altruism.
There is no defensible argument for this trash and I can’t believe that advertisers would get behind it. I’m all for helping out families in need but not through this sort of one-dimensional format. This is right up there with the incomprehensible policies that governments come up with to ‘save the nation’ and ‘close the gap’ through parachuting in missionary-style zeal and barely concealed segregation to ‘turn communities around’.
But I suppose we should be used to this sort of unhealthy voyeurism in reality television. Mary Elizabeth Williams unpacks the unhealthy state of US reality television in this gem – http://www.salon.com/2015/05/28/reality_tvs_sick_depths_how_the_altruism_porn_of_the_briefcase_highlights_americas_twisted_relationship_with_its_poor/ where she says, “reality TV largely runs on two speeds: the backstabbing dramas of bored rich people, or the trashy antics of economically underprivileged ones”. I think I would like to think that in this part of the world, our television execs might have a bit more class.
So I’m asking you Channel 9, when are you going to have a look at your ethics? Is there any way that you can defend this sort of decision so that I can understand? Is it just that when you (television channels) bid for these television formats, you get a whole raft of crap that nobody particularly wants to see but which you feel compelled to try to produce to get your money’s worth? A situation where if you buy the format for The Voice, you have to buy the format for The Briefcase, Honey, I Overindulged the Kids and Housewives of Walmart, as part of the package. Surely there is a choice to ignore some of these shows, or at worst, bury them in low ratings slots. Do your programmers and producers ever challenge each other over this lack of taste and decorum?