28 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Briefcase-based television is back, Jack!.

Darius Rucker performs onstage during the 2015 iHeartRadio Country Festival at The Frank Erwin Center on May 2, 2015, in Austin.(Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images) In a summer swamped with games and contests, here’s one of the more unusual — not to mention manipulative (certainly) and tasteless (probably). (All times Eastern) A mystery-box challenge finds the Top 22 chefs using 20 common ingredients that could be found in the average home before the remaining contestants face a pressure test to make their own version of an apple pie on “MasterChef” (Fox at 8 p.m.).We now enter the season for cheap but often effective reality shows, which explains the existence of “The Briefcase,” a new series in which hardworking families decide whether or not to keep a bundle of money for themselves or to share the wealth with others in dire straits. 7 p.m.Wednesday’s highlights on TV include:“The Briefcase”: Keep a briefcase full of money or share with another cash-strapped family — that’s the horrible-sounding premise of the new, what, game show? 8 p.m., CBS“Bullseye” sounds like the makings of a human demolition derby.

In the “new golden age of television,” the most ambitious, scripted prestige fare is endlessly dissected while the rest of the broad television universe is ignored. Two families in dire financial straits — tonight, one with a small business that’s in trouble, and one where the husband is an Iraq vet who lost his leg in the war — are given a briefcase with $101,000. SERIES PREMIERE: An unfortunate sign of the times, the reality show “The Briefcase” (CBS at 8) features hard-working American families experiencing financial setbacks who are presented with a briefcase containing a large sum of money and a potentially life-altering decision: They can keep all of the money, or give all or part of it to another family in need. So not only do you have your personal problems exploited for entertainment. but you’re then put in the position of looking selfish if you decide those problems outweigh those of some strangers. SERIES PREMIERE: Hosted by Kellan Lutz, the competition series “Bullseye” (Fox at 9) challenges four men and four women to use their bodies as human darts to hit targets — on land, in the water and in the sky.

The wives of “Austin Powers” sidekick Verne Troyer and former NFL wide receiver Hines Ward switch lives and homes on “Celebrity Wife Swap” (ABC at 10). “Independent Lens” (WETA at 10) presents the documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” profiling the Chinese activist and artist who famously helped design Beijing’s iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, and then later criticized the Olympic Games as party propaganda. FINALE WATCH: On the Season 1 closer of “Big Time in Hollywood, FL” (Comedy Central at 10:30), tensions reach a boiling point when everything comes to a head on the set of Ben and Jack’s film. I had the opportunity to interview Dave and Cara and hear firsthand how this experience revealed to them how circumstances often impact the decisions we all make and a lot about who they truly are as individuals and as a couple. CBS has a decent track record with unscripted class warfare, having turned the British reality concept Undercover Boss into a surprisingly poignant, though often tone-deaf hit.

Like that show, The Briefcase forces its participants into another person’s shoes in the hopes the experience will help them reevaluate what’s most important. Eight months pregnant, the primary income earner and no maternity leave, Cara was focused on how the money could help relieve some of their debt, provide for their two 2 year old son and future child, as well as shore up any expected challenges they may face with Dave, who had already been through 33 surgeries. Unlike Undercover Boss, which lampoons the C-suite cluelessness of well-compensated executives, The Briefcase puts the screws to average, hard-working people whose sole offense is agreeing to participate in a reality show. Trained to help and to give to others with little in return, the decision seemed like it would be predictable – he could help another family who may be in a situation far worse than himself.

Excruciating, and that’s coming from someone who generally enjoys manipulative reality television (especially when the manipulation involves money.) For example, I loved the second season of ABC’s defunct spin-off Bachelor Pad, a reality competition in which former contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette squared off against each other to win a cash prize. Lost (Classic) (1 p.m.): With “The Man Behind The Curtain,” the men behind the Lost (Classic) coverage—Myles McNutt and Noel Murray—get a healthy dose of Ben Linus flashbacks for their time. Michael Emerson was actually nominated for an Emmy for this episode and possibly could have won if it the episode had delved into Ben’s thoughts on Nikki and Paulo. How do you balance the very real needs of your own family and what is best for them with that of another family and not feel guilty if you choose to keep it all? It’s easy to blame contestants for choosing to be subjected to reality-show nonsense, but these participants didn’t even agree to the show’s basic premise.

They think they’re participating in a documentary about how families manage their finances, only to be surprised when a producer shows up at their door with the briefcase filled with $101,000 in cash. With a premise so distasteful, the show never has a shot at redemption, but the execution takes the mildly offensive concept and turns it into something outright loathsome.

In other words, the families of The Briefcase are “television poor,” afflicted with enough financial hardship that a six-figure payout would be life-altering, but not in so dire a position as to make them depressing to watch. Also continuing ABC’s habit of just giving things names without putting any real thought to it, Verne Troyer’s “wife” is actually his girlfriend. After receiving their $1,000 bonus stack, they don’t pay the light bill or stave off aggressive bill collectors, they rush out to pleasure shop with their three daughters. Ripper Street (BBC America, 10 p.m): In this week’s Ripper Street, “a gang of youths unleash hell in the streets and a body is found stuffed inside a barrel.” Oh no! Instead of just helping the families, The Briefcase offers them help, then forces them to justify accepting that help by placing another family’s fate in their hands.

Then, in “The Deadly Marriage Scam” (that’s to the point), “a man goes to extreme measures to give his love the wedding of her dreams.” The wedding of her dreams probably isn’t death, but what do we know?! Hot In Cleveland (TV Land, 10 p.m): “Hot Damn!” is “the show’s memorable moments, episodes and bloopers.” If you’re not a big fan of Hot In Cleveland but like seeing people’s mistakes on full display, this is one way to kill 30 minutes tonight.

The decision is framed as if there’s no right answer, but the whole object of the show is to demonstrate how generous people can be if given the opportunity. The Soul Man (TV Land, 10:30 p.m): In the one-hour (meaning two episodes) fourth season finale of The Soul Man, Boyce finds himself attending a seminar to make sure his brother Stamps isn’t being scammed and later appears to be seriously ungrateful as the parishioners attempt to celebrate his anniversary as a pastor. That’s the only thing that can explain the playing of the Chris O’Donnell’s The Bachelor, a movie about all the women Dick Grayson bedded and how they’re all crazy. Don’t worry, though, the families get to revise their decisions as they pass several checkpoints, learning more about the mystery family as they go along.

After the initial division of assets, each family receives a memo detailing the other family’s financial situation, including their annual income and how much debt they owe. (When homeowners are involved, the producers specify that the debt amount includes the family’s mortgage, in case that changes the equation.) Then, to twist the knife back in the other direction, the families are ordered to tour the home of the family that stands to benefit from their generosity. Everything changes once Kim notices Dave’s prosthetic limb, which he’s worn since losing his left leg to a roadside bomb during an active military tour.

To recap: In order to get the entirety of the $100,000, all the participants have to do is say they want it more than they want another family to have it, then repeatedly refuse to share even as deeply personal information about the other family is disclosed to them bit by bit. At the risk of giving away the ending, let’s just say everybody is at least kind of generous and they walk away from the experience saying they’ve been changed for the better, though it’s unclear how, aside from the infusion of cash. There’s certainly no benefit to the viewer, who watches the whole show knowing about the double-briefcase “twist,” and therefore understands how needlessly cruel it is to manipulate innocent people.

The Briefcase makes a fine thematic companion to Undercover Boss, another show that treats human empathy as some sort of oddity and congratulates people for displaying it with television cameras running.

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