P O S T E D B Y J O H N
Two new British reality shows transform the lived experience of poverty into a spectacle we can all enjoy in prime time:
On ITV’s “Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway,” needy—and sometimes not-so-needy—supplicants have 60 seconds to persuade a panel of five wealthy panelists to give them money. The other show, “The Secret Millionaire” … features self-made millionaires who go undercover and spend 10 days in a poor neighborhood looking for people who could use their charity. At the end of the show, the millionaire reveals him- or herself and writes checks to the winners.*
Neither of these shows would, I believe, require much adjustment for American television audiences already fed on a steady diet of loutishness and self-abasement. An American version of “The Secret Millionaire” would be especially appealing to some, leaving unchallenged the larger forces that drive people into poverty, and celebrating the playful beneficence of the more fortunate among us.
So grab a bowl of popcorn. There are valuable lessons for the whole family in the humiliation of the poor.
*“Philanthropy TV” by Robert Frank in the April 13, 2007, issue of the Wall Street Journal Online.