CHANNEL 9's latest reality TV offering blatantly pulls at your heartstrings, and uses vulnerable families to do it.
The Briefcase puts Aussies who are "doing it tough" in a moral dilemma they should never have to face.
Thinking they have signed up for a show documenting how they make ends meet, the families answer the door to find a silver briefcase filled with bright red stacks of $20 bills - $100,000 worth.
It's a life-changing amount of money, but the gift also comes with a letter explaining that the family must choose how much to keep, and how much to give to another deserving family.
In each episode two families have three days to decide how much to keep as they receive more information about the other family.
But they don't know the other party is in the exact same position.
If each family gives the other everything, or the same amount, then they're all winners.
The part where it gets messy is when one party gives more than the other. The real clanger is they must decide before they meet up, meaning they can't change their minds after they discover what the other family has decided to do.
It's a dangerous game of "who deserves it more".
Episode one features a sheep farming family who lost nearly everything in a bushfire two years ago, and a young mum who is in dire need of new prosthetic limbs after losing her hands and feet to a bacterial disease.
Haven't these people suffered enough? Why do they need to shed even more tears for our prime-time viewing?
Nine and the production company could just tell us their stories and give each family $100,000. It would be a feel-good exercise but probably wouldn't deliver ratings.
To the families' credit, they handle the dilemma with generosity and grace.
Somewhere in The Briefcase are the elements for a good show, but instead it is exploitation hiding behind heartbreaking back stories and inspirational people.
What I can't figure out is why Nine would commission its own version of a show that tanked in the US and was cancelled after just six episodes. One critic from Time.com went as far as to declare it the "worst reality TV show ever".
I don't expect the Australian version to do much better.
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