For a long time I figured that FOX was just the crass network. With low-brow hits like Married With Children where poor Al and Peg Bundy got laughs for their slovenly and misogynistic humor in the 80’s and early 90’s. When it was over, I thought maybe that was the end of it. But then there was Joe Millionaire, a reality show where a guy lies about his identity to a bunch of women, all of whom he’s dating. I’m guessing one of the execs came up with this straight from his own life. And later, the cartoon ridiculousness that is Family Guy. I’m not saying any of this wasn’t entertaining. What I’m saying is that it’s the basest form of entertainment there is. Unless you find watching someone take a poop entertaining — which, for the record, I do NOT.
But last night I happened upon Secret Millionaire. Another premise based on lying to the unsuspecting. But in this case, a millionaire lives among the poor for a week, and tries to find deserving people to whom they will give at least $100,000 of their own money at the end of the experiment.
Look, I’m a skeptic. I’m thinking these rich people are just paying down a little on their guilt for having money, or they’re simply happy to get a huge tax break for a measly week of slumming with the “other half.” I’m even a bit sorry for the recipients, because you know they’re going to have to pay taxes on what they get. I forget what the untaxable limit is on gifts, but I’m pretty sure it’s less than 100 large.
And let’s not forget the over-dramatized admission of guilt when the rich reveal their true selves and hand over a wad of cash to the weepy though well-deserving recipient making everyone feel all warm and fuzzy before they jump into their limos and head right back to their real, super-rich lives.
But here’s the thing. Despite all of that, regardless of whether the “secret millionaires” actually have a changed view of the poor or not, despite what their motives are and what happens to any of them in the future, the recipients of the money are all actually deserving people whose lives could be changed dramatically with the money they receive. And at the end of it all, people who are struggling get some help. And you know what, skepticism aside, it’s a good thing. And the only thing that makes me think FOX isn’t a black hole of crass, loud, brash, intolerant a-holes.