Needy Briefcase Family Once Threw a Lavish Kiddie Party on TLC Series

Briefcase Controversy Bergin Family

One of the families featured on CBS’ new reality series The Briefcase — which dangles a “life-altering” sum of money in front of those “experiencing financial setbacks” — previously was featured on a TLC series about extravagant kiddie parties.

As pointed out by TVLine reader Helen (and seen in the video below), the Bergin family of Matthews, N.C., threw an ’80s-themed party for their three daughters back in 2011, spending at least $7,750 on flourishes such as an outdoor roller rink, a foam pool and cheerleaders. (The girls’ mom, Kim, is described in the TLC video as a “part-time event planner.”)

Based on the timeline established on The Briefcase, this party was held six years after family patriarch Joe was laid off from a sales job at age 40, at which time he launched an ice cream truck business to hopefully make ends meet.

In the months before being cast on The Briefcase — where the Bergins were seen inhabiting a more modest home than in the TLC episode — Joe was injured in a vehicular collision, leaving him “unable to work, at all,” he said during the program.

The show’s casting of financially needy families already had invited scrutiny, with the premiere episode’s Bronsons — war vet Dave, pregnant wife Cara and their 3-year-old child — overseeing construction of a new, customized home while reportedly $81,000 in debt.

CBS did not immediately respond to TVLine’s request for comment on The Briefcase‘s vetting process.

At the close of their Briefcase episode, the Bergin and Bronson families wound up giving to one another the full $100,000 inside their respective briefcase.

The Briefcase opened on Wednesday as the night’s most watched program, with 6.87 million total viewers (per Nielsen finals), and placed a close second in the demo (behind Fox’s MasterChef). TVLine readers gave the premiere an average grade of “D.”

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33 Comments
  1. wrstlgirl says:

    Well, I never!!! LOL!! I was bothered last night about the Bronson’s home thingy, seemed weird considering their circumstances. None of this really shocks me :-)

  2. herman1959 says:

    When this show was first announced, I knew it didn’t feel right and I said at that time that I was not going to watch. So, these developments are not surprising to me, although, I am surprised that they were uncovered so quickly. Usually, we find out after the series has completed its run.

  3. Tony Lang says:

    CBS pulled a TLC? Who did the background check, Dan Rather?!? *tu-dum-tsh*

  4. dj says:

    I wish they’d cancel ALL reality shows. They all seem fake.

    • Patrick says:

      They are all fake. And once the non-union writers on the shows win their current court cases against the producers, the entire house of cards will collapse.

  5. Sheila says:

    There was a tv show about over the top kids’ parties? That sounds equal parts annoying and boring!

  6. Steve Ungrey says:

    Skip reality TV. The Bachelor is phony (another split couple. Duh.) and this show sounds like garbage. Oh, and save Battle Creek.

  7. JB says:

    Anyone who is surprised by this needs a lesson in reality…and I don’t mean “reality” TV.

  8. KevyB says:

    TVLine readers gave this a “D”???? Then this must be the worst show of all time! I didn’t think the TVLine polls ever got below “B”!!!

  9. B.T. says:

    If there weren’t any child molesters invited then they’re TLC’s most wholesome family.

  10. Jess says:

    Why is TVLine turning into E! Online?

  11. Sara says:

    Why is it so hard for shows like this to do actual research before they put these families on air?!!

  12. Sharon Cantrell says:

    This is the most exploitive and degrading show of highlight the poor for reality TV- ashamed of you CBS

  13. Meh says:

    Well, technically both families thought they were giving the money away so I’m not really sure I fault them for taking $100,000 when it became clear it had been given to them. If they should not have been cast in the first place then that is CBS’ fault.

  14. Times change, situations change. What they did a few years ago is not now.

    • Helen says:

      They lived fiscally irresponsibly, yet now they were awarded $101k? It’s not right, there are many more families far worse off than these people. My husband made nearly $1M a year for several years and I’ve worked ever since I was 18. We lived very frugally with our children and saved all of our money. When his work situation changed, our work ethic did not, and we came out just fine. We didn’t need to throw lavish parties for our 4 kids or give them the finer things. What we did give them all was a paid in full college education, and we are all living quite comfortably with a strong work ethic.

      • matty says:

        I disagree. Things happen, sometimes you can’t prepare for what life has in store. Just because at one point they were doing well, doesn’t mean they should never be able to ask for help.

  15. matty says:

    I watched it and I liked it…. People are going to look for any excuse to criticize, and I think the fact that both of the fathers sustained injuries and have medical bills explains their debt.

  16. Mary White says:

    Why cbs don’t give to the real needy, not people who put there selves in debt and why never Austin Texas

  17. Catherine Alexandet says:

    When I was just a kid there was a show The Millionaire and he by way of his benefactor gave away a MILLION dollars this was not that long away from WWII so a MILLION was a least ten times what it is worth now
    I was expecting to see that sort of enormous gift when I saw this advertised – sorry guys I was really disappointed you gave so little
    True the other was a show but the lotto hold more captive I think you should have way upped your amount you would have a lot more viewers and could do so many take off games, write ins it could be tv lotto endless show
    Oh well

    • Then there was john bears fitztipton or however it was spelled..was a good show..I think this show is more for this time while that show was more for that time.

  18. Catherine Alexandet says:

    Now that I’ve seen the show I think it’s just mean !
    Someone is going to get both or close I can’t watch that
    Bye

  19. Bob says:

    CBS has reached bottom. The tiffany network is now home to trailer trash all over America.

  20. missy says:

    This program was the biggest joke I have ever seen. One couple has a party’s for over $7,700 has a huge home that they can sell and down size. Did dad not get any settlement from the car accident what about SS disability?

  21. Upside Downy Junior says:

    This time both families gave the other families the money. Expect to see some families keep it all. Don’t think I will be watching it again.

  22. Rachel says:

    This is a wonderful show. Poverty is difficult, but to watch people rise above themselves and their own desires, to make the choice to be grateful when there is not much to be grateful for, choosing instead to be selfless,is better to watch than silly gibberish like the bachelor.

  23. jeffery davis says:

    how do you apply for this TV show briefcase

  24. Bonnie Nelson says:

    After week five I’m done. I am so disgusted. Not that we didn’t all see it coming! Not only did they take care of themselves, but they felt the need to become a moral compass! And get THANKED for it! Yuck.

  25. Della Gilmore says:

    I really like the show brief case. This show has already help many families. Each time I watch this show I cried but, it is one of the best shows on TV. How do you get on this show? My husband and I adopted two speical needs children. We would like to set up a trusted fund for them. Especially after we die. These girls are our love & our life. I quit my job to be a full time mother to these girls and we don’t regret it. We would like to help another family out also.