Many families dream of a pile of cash arriving at their door. In today’s turbulent economic times, many families struggle with debts, bills and paying for every day necessities. A briefcase of cash could wipe away many of these monetary issues. But, what if that family could selflessly give that cash lifeline to another family in need? Would that family choose to give or receive? This dilemma is the premises of the new television show, The Briefcase.
Airing on CBS, the Briefcase is a reality television show that questions families’ willingness to put others needs ahead of their own. The show begins with a family receiving $101,000 cash in a briefcase. Over the next 72 hours, the family must decide whether to keep all, keep part or give away all the money to another deserving family. What each family doesn’t know is that the other family is making the same money decision. The hour long program chronicles the struggle that the families face in making their decision.
Show creator Dave Broome (creator of The Biggest Loser) participated in a question/answer regarding his new show, The Briefcase. Below is an excerpt from that conversation.
Question: What gave you the idea to come up with a show that helps two different families if they choose to?
Dave: I like to make shows that have a transformational aspect to them whether they are emotional or physical transformations. And I’ve always wanted to do something that dealt with values and what matters most in our life. I was thinking of how to do that in an emotional and a dynamic way, and I used the lottery as an analogy. Because we all have that dream that if we scratch off that lottery ticket and won, what would we do with that money. If you have the opportunity to win that lottery with a mirror in your face and you have to look at your life through it. At the end of the day, that’s what the show is all about. This has nothing to do with the money. The money plays a little part in this — what really matters is what matters most to you in your life. What might you have, what might you be taking for granted as a person inside.
Question: Finances are incredibly personal – those aspects of going into the home and seeing those bills – when you were finding the people – did they have to agree to allow your production team to have access to everything?
Dave: It’s tough too – they obviously thought they were going to be in a documentary that was going to deal with their finances and we told them in advance that everything was going to get exposed like that but we left very sensitive information that was really personal out. We didn’t want to give that out – so if someone had a medical condition for example, we weren’t going to deal with that. But we want you to get a chance to see someone else’s life and a lot of times. And even in the Bergin one – because on the outside the picture of that house when we were casting, I’m thinking what’s going on here, most people would want to live here. But you can’t judge a book by it’s cover so frequently and that’s the cliche and that’s the truth so until you go into a home and you see what somebody is dealing with inside, that gives you a peak into their life. So they knew that was going to happen and obviously were going into the house and we asked them – leave your bills out – don’t clean up, don’t change a thing. Don’t tidy the house up because we’re coming over. If you’re a clean person and you’re perfectly tidy, that’s fine. If you happen to be the miracle family that way — but we asked for this to be as real and as raw and as genuine as it gets which is why you are seeing me on television as the executive producer. You see my cameras, you see the mics, you see all that.
Question: If you were a participant on the Briefcase, what would you do with the money?
Dave: It’s a bad question for me to answer because I’m not a middle class family. I’m a very lucky person that doesn’t have to struggle with as a typical middle class. That’s again one of the things that I saw was inspiring. I realize this – I do not do enough in my life to help other people. I do nice things and I consider myself to be a nice person. But if I were to give, I would say that whatever I do – it’s not enough and it’s not money. I don’t make enough sacrifice in my life and that’s what I took away from this and I’m not afraid to admit it and I’m going to tell the world that. When you give, when you have, you’re doing something good. But when you are giving the way these families are giving, that to me takes it to a level that gives me faith in humanity. I want to push it back down to the middle class and these people are making these decisions every single day of their life.
Question: How did you go about the casting process for the show?
Dave: The goal was let’s find a well deserving middle class family – are you a family that is making sacrifices to make ends meet. That’s middle class. The Bronsons make 69,000 and they struggle. We have a family making 140,00 per year and they struggle. Do you struggle with your finances, does religion influence you, does your lifestyle influence you. But if you made too much money, I didn’t want you to be a part of it. And if you made too little money, I didn’t want you to be part of it either. I wanted right in the middle of what the heart of America is. They key to unscripted television in its best form is to have the audience watch someone and say Oh my gosh, that’s us. Or, that’s my brother, or that’s my sister, or that’s my next door neighbor. That’s what you need for these shows to work and I wanted every one of these families to be relatable. The Bergins are Mike and Molly – they are just that that relatable family. And Dave and Cara Bronson are the younger version. It doesn’t matter that Dave is an Iraqi war veteran that lost one leg, but they’re just a young family starting out who have got to deal with these extra hurdles that he’s got but his attitude towards life is so amazing and so is the Bergins. So we go to cast these things and we look for families who are relatable, middle class and some where the audience can look at them and say, wow, that’s us. It’s a very unique viewing experience. It’s unlike a show like “The Biggest Loser” that I’ve produced because that’s kind of voyeuristic in a way. In The Briefcase you are seeing yourself in these families in the position, you almost immerse yourself into what they are going through and you say, Oh my God, what would I do? What would my husband do, what would my wife do, so it’s a really different kind of experience. So you need to have stories that are really relatable.
Question: What do you hope this show is going to do for viewers?
Dave: This will be talked about on Thursday morning. People are going to say, did you see that, did you watch it? My hope is two things — people like myself, when I got into my car every night and I would literally look in the rear view mirror and question myself. I would sit there and go — yeah – we all want to think we’re good. We all want to try to be good people. Are we doing enough — and that’s a very individual conversation — I want someone to watch the show and question themselves. And if they come to that conclusion that they do, then great. If they come to the conclusion and say, no I don’t, I could do more. And it’s not about giving money away. But I want people to question it – what really matters is your love. What Kim Bergin realizes what’s most important in her life is her husband, their health and their children. And while they struggle financially, they have a lot of love. Your health and your