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Is The Briefcase the most controversial show of 2016?

ReviewSteve Molk

Mandy and Rob from episode one of The Briefcase
Image - Nine

What would you do if you were presented with a briefcase filled with $20 notes totaling $100,000 and told you could keep it all, no questions asked?

You're also presented with the story of another family for whom the money would restore their lives - do you keep it, share it, or give it all away? You have three days to decide.

This is the dilemma of THE BRIEFCASE.

The series delivers the aforementioned cash-filled case to two families, each deserving for various reasons. Without the other knowing both have been delivered a briefcase. Both are asked the question of what they keep, share or giveaway.

Narrated by Peter Stefanovic the first episode presents us with two couples:

Mandy & Rod - Mandy got an Infection and lost all 4 limbs. Rod quit his job to care for her. They have two primary school-aged girls.

Jim & Jenny - Sheepfarmers that lost their livelihood in a fire 2 years ago that wiped out their stock, their house and destroyed most of their farm, which was uninsured. They have two teenage daughters.

For all the claims of "poverty porn" and that these families are being degraded for our entertainment, not once do either couple lay claim to the money as their right. None of them say they deserve it. Not once is there a "woe is me" moment.

Even as the details of the other couple are drip-fed to Rod & Mandy and Jim & Jenny their resolve only firms. 

While future episodes may uncover people who choose to think they are the most deserving, THE BRIEFCASE doesn't project that feeling from this first episode. These are people that reflect what too many people offer as lip service when they talk about "mateship". There's real concern and empathy shown from both couples in how they feel the money should be used.

Sure, there are the standard reality tropes of having people talk and act like the cameras aren't there. It's kludgy but it's part of the story, and personalizes the story rather than having a host walk around patronizing the couples (it's bad enough that producers have obviously done that with their questions to get the answers that drive the show).

Family and friends are included to allow the couples to discuss their thoughts and help them make their decision. None of the participants in this first episode are wallowing in self-pity. They see the potential of the money and how it could change their lives - but also that it could help others.

It is hard to blame either family for choosing to keep the entire $100K. Be it for selfish or altruistic reasons. That money would change their lives, and those of most people.

In the final moments the couples meet face to face and reveal their decision. BYO tissues.

There's lots that could be said about THE BRIEFCASE. No question it's reality television, but it's got real heart (and the potential for real villains). This is not a show about pity but rather empathy, and for modern reality TV that's a fine line to tread successfully. Its success will be found in people who are willing to see the best and not the worst in people.

The Briefcase (10 episodes) - starts 7:30pm Mon 20 June, Nine.