Sunday, March 27, 2011

Millionaires and Reality TV

I have to admit, I get a kick out of watching reality TV. Shows like Survivor, Top Chef, or The Amazing Race bring out the competitive side of me. It's like watching a sports game where you find someone or some team to root for. You also get a "behind the scene" look at their processes and strategies for winning. Of course, I don't mind being able to laugh at terrible decisions or stupid remarks that are blurted out either.

That said, some reality shows really make me cringe. The Real House Wives series, Millionaire Match Maker, The Hills, etc. show case the excessive lifestyle of the rich while creating celebrities out of a bunch of none-deserving people. For some, the enticing part of watching the shows is their ability to ridicule the "celebrities" featured. Sadly, it seems like more viewers actually attempt to emulate the irresponsible behaviors displayed.

It sounds ironic, but a show like Undercover Boss doesn't make me feel any better. I have a hard time endorsing it. I know it's supposed to be one of those "feel good" shows highlighting the fact that there's still good in our society, especially during the downturn. Yeah...something touching like that. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth for some reason. I can't help but wonder why these bosses didn't attempt to go undercover to understand their own operations better in the first place. There's no doubt in my mind that a huge incentive to do a show like this is the free publicity generated for their company (and themselves).

Apparently though, it's a great formula for a TV show. Recently ABC decided to run a similar program called Secret Millionaire. In this show, millionaires conceal their identity and move to a much poorer part of the country to experience poverty for themselves. At the same time, they're supposed to meet people who do good in that community and give away a part of their wealth. So in order to do "research" for the blog, I decided to suffer through an entire episode earlier tonight.

To my surprise, I didn't actually suffer much at all. I kind of liked the show! There are several reasons. For one, the show is very tastefully done. The commercials didn't do it justice. It's refreshing to see millionaires in this context on TV. They're not looking for love or extravagantly throwing away their money for ridiculous parties (*cough* Kardashians *cough*).

Because the millionaires are helping those who have nothing to do with their companies, it's easier to not see this as a publicity stunt. For the CEOs in Undercover Boss, I tend to think that it's their responsibility to understand the day-to-day functioning of their company. It’s just too staged for my taste. Secret Millionaire does more to create awareness to poverty and promote volunteerism. The amounts donated are to individuals or organizations who will continue to help others. I guess in that sense, the money will go further.

In addition, it seems like ABC vetted these millionaire participants closely. So far, all of them have had a good track record of giving and volunteering already prior to the show. Smart. It left me with a positive attitude, and I even got a little teary eyed (shhhhh don't tell anyone!!).

Have you seen Secret Millionaire or Undercover Boss? What do you think of this trend of featuring "giving" by millionaires on TV?


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