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CBS is adding another unscripted show to its summer schedule.
The network has greenlighted The Briefcase, a reality show from The Biggest Loser creator/executive producer Dave Broome. Six episodes were ordered.
The show features hardworking American families experiencing financial setbacks who are presented with a briefcase containing $101,000 and a potentially life-altering decision: They can keep all of the money for themselves or give all or part of it to another family in need. The families will have 72 hours to learn details about one another’s circumstances; what they don’t know is that the family with whom they are considering sharing this financial windfall received an identical briefcase with the same instructions.
“I love shows with social, redeeming qualities to them where people are given the opportunity to transform themselves and grow, emotionally or physically or both,” Broome tells The Hollywood Reporter. “One of the areas I wanted to tackle in a big and loud way was our values.”
In each episode, the families are paired up with other families that further question their own beliefs and values. For example, one episode features a right-wing couple from Texas debating whether to give money to a married lesbian couple looking to have a baby via in vitro fertilization.
Was Broome surprised at the decisions the families made? “I was not surprised; I was shocked,” he said. “Every episode had a different outcome, and the audience’s jaws are going to drop each week.… Both of these families are evaluating each other, and what we learned was in all these cases, it’s not about the money. Yes, that defines it, but the episodes really build on the fact that they learn so much more about themselves, their spouse.”
He adds that the show “breaks a lot of rules,” including not featuring a typical host but instead showing the camera and audio crews, along with Broome himself, as they follow the families.
“We’re breaking the fourth wall,” he says. “It’s me, as the producer, who puts the briefcase into play. We follow this journey and we own it. We’re pulling back the curtain on reality TV for the first time in a way the audience has never seen. This is the 2.0 version of unscripted TV. People question the authenticity and genuineness of reality TV in a lot of ways, but we put it right there. It’s a very big change and shift for the audience.”
Should the series become a hit, Broome already has an idea on a new twist for a second and even third season that he’s already run by CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler.
The Briefcase, which Broome exec produces with Faye Stapleton, is set to premiere at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27. The series is produced by Broome’s 25/7 Productions and distributed by Sony Pictures Television, where Broome recently inked a two-year overall deal. Broome also recently sold a fitness-focused reality series to NBC.
The Briefcase joins long-running reality series Big Brother on CBS’ summer schedule; Big Brother is set to return June 24. Also among CBS’ summer lineup are the new drama Zoo, based on James Patterson‘s best-selling book; Under the Dome, in its third season; and the Halle Berry starrer Extant, returning for its sophomore season.
CBS — which also has long-running reality staples Survivor and The Amazing Race on its schedule — hasn’t debuted a new unscripted series since The American Baking Competition‘s one-season run in summer 2013.
The families participating in The Briefcase are:
Joe: Ice-cream-truck owner
Kim: Part-time event planner
Three children, ages 15, 13 and 12
Matthews, North Carolina
After Joe was laid off from his corporate job 10 years ago, he and his wife, Kim, started an ice cream business, which is struggling.
Dave: Injured retired Iraqi vet
One 3-year-old, with another on the way
Manchester, New Hampshire
Dave is an American hero whose Humvee exploded when he was in Iraq; he lost his leg. He and Cara are expecting their second child this summer. Living on one income with a growing family has put a significant amount of stress on the Bronsons.
Matt: Former steel industry worker
Becky: Stay-at-home mom
Two children, ages 20 and 16
Rio Vista, Texas
After suffering a bad back injury almost 20 years ago and losing his well-paying job in the steel industry, Matt now works as the local constable. Becky and Matt admit that their financial situation has made life difficult, but they believe strongly in community service and rely heavily on their Christian faith to guide them.
Tonya: Director of the nonprofit City Year
Leila: Managing director of the nonprofit City Year
Two children, ages 14 and 9
Three years ago, Tonya and Leila took in Leila’s nephews, Milton and Jaden, and today the children are thriving. Taking on the responsibility of two kids comes with added costs, and they have put their dream of having a child of their own on hold.
Josh: Telecommunications installer
Susan: Sheriff’s office clerk
Josh and Susan hope to expand their family and adopt a child, but living paycheck to paycheck has made it difficult. With their large amount of debt and the hefty price of adoption, they fear that it may never become a reality.
John: Commercial fisherman in Florida
Amanda: Stay-at-home mom in North Carolina
Three children, ages 12, 10 and 7
Fuqua Varina, North Carolina
John and Amanda were living the American dream until they lost their business and were forced to sell their house. With the family based in North Carolina and John’s fishing job in Florida, the family spends more than half the year apart, straining their relationship.
Richard: High school teacher
Esperanza: Special ed teacher
Two children, ages 19 and 16
Boyle Heights, California
The Matas are extremely passionate about their Mexican heritage, and they all perform together in a Mariachi band on the weekends. They also run a Mariachi conservatory to teach youth the art in hopes of keeping them off the streets of Los Angeles. Their value of education has driven them into debt with student loans, and as teachers they often find themselves spending their own money on supplies.
Cara: Stay-at-home mom
Four children, ages 14, 11, 9 and 7
Mark and Cara are blue-collar Bostonians. Living on one income with four children is a challenge financially, but over the past six years they’ve managed to foster multiple children. Their oldest son started the charity “Guys With Pies,” which has raised over $30,000, and Cara is going back to school to become a lawyer so she can help advocate for foster children.
Gabe: Insurance agent
Krystal: Stay-at-home mom
Six children, ages 9, 6, 4, 2, and 2-year-old twins
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Gabe and Krystal are high school sweethearts whose lives revolve around faith and family. The Moyas’ finances hit rock bottom in 2009, but through all the hard times, they remain positive, feel blessed, and are determined to raise their children with strong faith.
Amari Vendely: Unemployed
Natalie Salgado: Medical assistant
Three children, ages 7, 5 and 3
Amari and Natalie’s financial situation hit a rough patch when Natalie was laid off from her position as a medical assistant. She has since found another job, but the time she was unemployed took a toll on the family. In addition, there will be extra expenses for Amari’s transition. He was born female, but after giving birth to two children and living as a woman for most of his adult life, he now lives as a man.
Mike Aponte: Welder
Andrea Kassimatis: Pediatric nurse
Three children, ages 14, 7 and 11 months
Union Beach, New Jersey
Mike and Andrea have been together for nine years. In 2009 they invested in a house, but shortly after renovations were completed, Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey coast and destroyed what they had built.
Robert: Educational consultant
Lucy: Special programs coordinator
Two children, ages 9 and 3
Robert and Lucy place high importance on education. Robert is an educational consultant with a master’s degree from Wright University and is working on his doctorate. Lucy is a special programs coordinator at Wright University. With large student loans and trying to pay for their children’s education, they have a hard time staying afloat financially.
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