CBS' Briefcase Premiere: Did We Just See the Only 'Acceptable' Outcome?

CBS Briefcase Results

And to think you laughed at my comparison to The Dark Knight‘s ferry boats.

CBS on Wednesday opened The Briefcase, a new short-run reality series in which two needy families are each given $100,000 cash and then tasked with giving all, some or none of it to a second deserving family.

The “twist” here is that unbeknownst to either party, the second family also was handed a cash-filled briefcase and the same dilemma.

In the premiere, we met the Bronsons: Dave, a war vet with a prosthetic leg, and his wife Cara, who are expecting their second child this summer. Among their challenges is a (modest) new home construction which has seen its cost rise with every special need dictated by Dave’s mobility.

The other family, the Bergins, include Joe, a long-ago laid-off executive whose ice cream truck business is struggling, and his wife Kim — neither of whom have been able to afford health insurance for a couple of years.

Throughout the hour, each couple pondered extremes — keeping all of the windfall (in the spirit of “protect your own family first”) or altruistically parting with all of the cash. In what was meant to be a final emotional thrust, each family visited the other’s (vacant) house, to see “how they lived,” but aside from the discovery of Dave’s spare legs, the sequence came across as, well, sorta-creepy snooping. Ooh, unpaid medical bills!

In the end, the couples were invited to meet at Los Angeles Union Station, where they 1) realized they each had been given a briefcase and 2) then revealed how much they decided to give each other. In this first scenario, each family ceded the entire sum, meaning they each walked away with 100 grand. So, all of that internal struggle/moral deliberation was perhaps enlightening, but ultimately for naught.

And as that outcome became evident, you had to wonder: If the show is playing its cards right, is that the only result we should be “OK” with witnessing? Because while a lopsided outcome would provide “entertainment” in its awkwardness — “Er, yeah, so…. Here’s $5,000. This was nice” — wouldn’t it leave us with a yucky feeling? And is CBS, the same network which endeavored to never make Undercover Boss about slackers getting canned, in the business of producing not-so-happy endings?

Or will one of the five other upcoming (and already-cast!) match-ups stack the deck in one family’s favor, for both those involved and us the audience?

What did you think of The Briefcase‘s opening? And what has made the animals so angry in all of the Zoo promos??

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Mark says:

    So did they each split it or did they each give it all away?

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      “…each family ceded the entire sum…”

    • Rick says:

      Both families gave the entire $100,000 away, but since they gave the money to each other, it was just swapping one briefcase with $100,000 for another with the same amount.

  2. Boiler says:

    Just awful! Please put on scripted shows

  3. Timothy Adams says:

    I think the idea of manipulating people who face real needs for “entertainment” is offensive. The producers may be going to hell.

    • bluefairy says:

      Exactly! I know reality TV is always bad and cheap, but lately it’s crossing the most basic lines of decency. I don’t know what’s worse: exploiting people’s poverty, or exploiting innocent children (like those stupid beauty pageants for 6-year-olds do).

    • Lamont Cranston says:

      Agreed. If you’re gonna screw with people’s emotions over money, make it some rich jerks who you mess with. Not people who struggle to feed their families.

    • Jaime says:

      AGREED 100% This show is obscene

    • Ellinas78 says:

      “Manipulate people for entertainment”… Did they kidnap the people and MAKE them get on the show?

    • AM68 says:

      Thank you! This show makes my stomach turn.

  4. Mr. Tran K says:

    I give The Briefcase an F. This should be CBS’ biggest failure.

  5. wrstlgirl says:

    Can I have that hour back, LOL!!!

  6. Jason Stoesz says:

    It blows my mind that people watch this crap.

  7. daysbradypats says:

    What if each couple decided to split the money evenly, 50 grand apiece? Wouldn’t that be, in a way, an OK outcome? Each family would still have ended up with the same amount of money. Plus, the families would help themselves and the other family involved.

    • AM68 says:

      Exactly. Why does it have to be all or nothing? It’s one of the reasons why I think the outcome is scripted. It would make much more sense if both couples had decided to split the money and then both would walk away with 100K. Are we honestly supposed to believe that both of these couples that are struggling wouldn’t keep anything for themselves??

    • dman6015 says:

      Yes, it is a good outcome because 50/50 ends up the same as 100/100.

  8. Carol C says:

    I’m honestly surprised at tonight’s outcome. I would have been willing and happy to share 50%. Lovely that these families were more generous. Am really glad that I didn’t waste my time watching, though, and don’t intend to.

  9. MelJ says:

    This is disgusting. Poverty isn’t competitive. It’s not a spectator sport.

  10. T says:

    I liked the outcome of this episode. And since I don’t want to watch an episode where one family ends up with $20K and the other family ends up with $180K, I figure this is a good episode to end on. I won’t be watching another.

  11. Cash says:

    I think the outcome of each episode should be that each family should get only what they are willing to give.

    • AT says:

      I think it is a harder decision that that. There isn’t a “right” answer. What if your family really needed the money? What if your child needed a surgery your insurance wouldn’t cover to live? I’d definitely keep the money to save my child’s life. That’s why I think this show is disgusting. All of these families need the money and to watch them figure out what to keep and give to another needy family is just wrong. I prefer shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition which was just all about helping people.

  12. Easily the most PANDERING, “oh you stupid low-class viewers, you’ll just love this piece of heartstring-tugging GARBAGE” show I’ve seen since that awful UNDERCOVER BOSS. These programs just LOVE to take “simple, hardworking people” and make them come off like Grade A Morons. I HATED IT. I will not put myself through that torture again. I’ve seen bad shows, and that piece of junk was AWFUL–a retrospective view of test patterns through the years would have been a better program.

  13. The Watcher says:

    Honestly the idea of this show is like many have already said. AWKWARD.

    Have they even planned for what happens when 1 of the families gives away the briefcase and the other doesn’t?

    Who would want to even see that? They’ve got an albatross hanging around their necks here, and it’s only going to end tolerably (If everyone shares) Any other outcomes are going to cause so much bad PR for the Families in question and CBS itself.

    It may be cheaper TV, but it’s just that…. CHEAPER TV.

  14. Never liked these kinds of reality shows, and this one is no different.

  15. A says:

    The time of the year when my tv stays off for three months.

  16. dancmh says:

    This is the type of trash that drives people away from network tv. CBS employees were PAID big money to make a show that dicks with people in real need. Disgusting.

    • AM68 says:

      Exactly. I already have mu summer TV schedule planned and it features ZERO reality shows. This show is worse than Undercover Boss. And that show is horrid!

  17. ZhaneEndrick says:

    The good news is that now that I know what this show is about, I’m obviously not going to watch it.

  18. wjm980 says:

    CBS couldn’t care less about any comments people have on this show. If people watch it, they’ll do more shows like this; if not, they won’t.

  19. kim mitchell says:

    I believe this show is scripted. I don’t believe there is two good families in this world. I wish it was true but I don’t believe it.

  20. kim mitchell says:

    I believe this show is scripted. I don’t believe there is two good families in this world. I wish it was true but I don’t believe it…. neither family was living in poverty. There are people living downtown who don’t even have a place to live. This show just made me sad.

  21. It’s annoying to see comments by reality show haters who feel the need to comment on something they have no interest in watching. (Why are you reading this anyways… shouldn’t you be busy googling critiques on “quality” Netflix shows like Bloodlines? . Anyhow, I thought this show was OK, but not spectacular, like Undercover Boss. Neither show I thought would be a hit, but I have a feeling this one will click with Reality show fans like Undercover Boss. I can’t see how they would be able to do a Season 2 though… so those “angry” Reality show haters can be appeased and continue to watch their quality television like Children’s Hospital.

    • bern says:

      Undercover Boss is “spectacular”?! Wow. And, people comment because exploitation of people makes decent folk angry – and they need to vent. But we should be venting to the network –

  22. Robin Burch says:

    How does a person get on a show like that? Esp someone that really needs help?

  23. Matt says:

    How can these families be considered as being in poverty? Specifically the Bronsons, she is a nurse making almost $70K a year, they did not mention how much he collects in disability. They are $81K in debt but are building a new home and made the decision to have a second child. If the $81K debt is for the mortgage on there new home I would say they are doing much better than a whole lot of people in this country.

  24. Abby says:

    Disgusting, exploitive, and cruel! Are we supposed to be entertained by watching two down-and-out families decide if they want to take the money to help pay bills, food, medical expenses or in a small way secure a future? Do the producers of this show know the agony of such financial problems? Clearly that is unlikely.
    I have an idea CBS, how about you take someone worth let’s say twenty million in cash and show them 10 desperate families and see how much money they’d be willing to give? I’m sorry to say we may see a lot more selfishness from these folks. I’d love to see how much of their cash they’d be willing to give, even when giving would NOT put them, or keep them, in a severe financial crisis like those unfortunate souls on the horrible, condescending Briefcase! How vile to show families who want to keep the money as potentially “selfish”. That’s clearly the spin here.
    Oh I so hope this show is cancelled as quickly as possible!

  25. bern says:

    I can’t believe that you didn’t talk about how exploitive this show is! “Here, poor struggling family – here’s the money you need – Now, if you are really good and moral, you should give it up for this even more struggling family. – Just kidding, here’s more money – wow, you were selfish weren’t you? – and on television….” Please. A disgusting premise orchestrated by wealthy people at CBS.

  26. Kayte CookWatts says:

    The end seemed set up. The pregnant wife was completely against giving all the money, she wanted to give 40% and wanted her husband to make “his family a priority.” After the home visit her mind completely changed then? We didn’t hear her say anything like that on camera. After the home visit she seemed like she felt sorry for them, but I didn’t hear anything like “let’s give them all the money.”

  27. dman6015 says:

    I always wondered how Undercover Boss would last beyond one season, but it keeps on going. They must be doing businesses where no one watches the show. All you have to do is look for the cameras and the bad wig. I see the same outcome for this show. Everyone knows the “big secret” now, so what do they do in Season 2?

  28. Helen says:

    This family with the 3 daughters was on another reality show with a $30K party for the kids!

    • Helen says:

      Youtube – “Outrageous Kid Parties – Where’s Madonna” and you will see a TLC clip of the 80’s party the mom threw for her kids end of school season.

  29. Lisa says:

    Didn’t watch – but I wonder if the families were thinking it would be a Brewster’s Millions type situation whereby giving away all the money to others would net them a much larger windfall for themselves – just a thought

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  31. Barbsra says:

    CBS is profiting off of others’ financial hardships. has found yet another way to profit off of poverty. I hope the good people of this country will stand up for what is right and avoid this depraved show. Disgusting.

  32. marilyn francis says:

    i really enjoyed it a lots i would love to be on th show myself.

  33. devine raines says:

    Why would they give such a big amount of money that don’t need. Living in a big farm land! With cows and nice house! Driving a 50k ford truck! They don’t need it at all! Give it to someone who does actually need. No home with kids. Struggling to buy food! Not to those who just want to buy fancy things! Terrible show

  34. mrs.willie carol harris says:


  35. Beverly Ricks says:

    I think on the episode where the Boston couple gave 99,600 and the Texas couple gave 25,000 the producers should have stepped in and split the money 50/50, actually that’s what they should have done in the end of every episode. The Texas couple only cared about their family and not other people. I bet they only helped their family and no one else. I think the show was a good idea, but greed got in some people’s way. I don’t think CBS thought it all the way through.