A new contender has emerged in network television's race to the bottom, and it's not on TLC.
On Wednesday, CBS aired the first episode of their new series The Briefcase. The show follows struggling American families who are suddenly given $101,000 and a choice: They can either keep the money or give some or all of it to another needy family.
In a promotional trailer released by the network, a montage of families each explain their personal hardships before shrieking in delight when presented with the cash, only to recoil at the Faustian decision CBS executives have cooked up for them. As Rawstory points out, the entire plot appears inspired by the 1986 Twilight Zone episode "Button Button."
To further increase the awkward tension, families are given information about the other needy strangers they could be helping and are forced to consider whose lives are more worthy of assistance.
CBS's decision to literally profit off impoverished Americans is more than just a story of corporate greed, but rather something tragically reflective of the times. Income inequality in the United States has soared in recent years, reaching levels not seen since 1928. Meanwhile, with living costs up and median household income now lower than in 1999, more and more people are struggling to get by. As a result, show like The Briefcase become painfully more relevant.
Online reaction was swift and harsh.
In the fiscal year 2014, CBS chief Les Moonves made in excess of $54 million, Vulture reported. In other words, he made more in a day than the entire amount each family is competing for. For him and other CBS executives to take American's economically vulnerable and force them into a bizarre cage match of faux-selflessness is just sick. Rather than gawking at poverty, CBS, and everyone else should be looking for ways to eliminate it.