Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Show: Secret Millionaire

Episodes: Five 43 minute episodes
Clips: Eight 1 minute clips
Studio: Fox
Rank: B-
This is kind of a hybrid between 30 Days and one of those home makeover shows. The concept is simple -- a well-meaning multimillionaire secretly infiltrates a poor community and spends a week incognito, assessing all of the financial hardship he sees around him. At the end of the week, he unveils his true identity and allocates $100,000 (or more) of his own money to a few of the people he feels deserve it most.

The poor people know something is up right from the get-go, since there's a camera crew following the rich person around. I assume that there's a cover story about it being some sort of documentary, although they never address it.

The format allows for a lot of flexibility in the type of person who gets helped, from cancer patients to struggling business owners to amazing individuals who have put their own meager incomes to use helping those around them. What they all have in common is that they're scraping for dollars in a way that the millionaires can only imagine. The checks that the millionaires hand out aren't big enough to set the recipients up for life or anything, but they surely pull them back from the brink of absolute ruin, which is a far more judicious use of the money.

As much as I enjoy seeing a little charitable redistribution of wealth, the show is also a little... greasy. With the exception of the millionaire in episode one, all of the millionaires seem to be unable to let the show be about the people receiving the money. Instead, it's all about how wonderful they are for writing the checks. I feel conflicted even complaining about this, because it is wonderful. Even if giving $100,000 doesn't hurt them, it's still a wonderful, compassionate act with real-world benefits. But the millionaires all choke up as they hand over the checks, and often seem more emotional than the check recipients. What exactly are the millionaires crying about? How awesome they are?

There's also a silly little bit that goes on in every episode where the millionaire pretends to feel nervous about unveiling their true financial status. They pretend that the lie is a shameful one, and play a little game in which they tell the poor person of the moment "I've been lying to you all week," to generate a reaction for the camera crew. The deception is harmless; the way that they come clean is what's shameful.

So, enjoy your Secret Millionaire, folks. It's a feel-good tearjerker, and even though the schmaltz volume is set to "deafening," I still recommend it.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: