The Briefcase, premiering on CBS at 8 p.m. Wednesday, features “American families experiencing financial setbacks,” to use the network’s terminology. The family is given a briefcase with $101,000 in it, and then they’re shown another family who’s “experiencing financial setbacks.” They have to decide how much money to keep and how much to give the other people, or whether they want to keep it all for themselves; neither family knows both families have in fact received a briefcase, and that their counterparts are also deliberating over if and how to share the money. In the two episodes CBS made available for review, the decision weighs incredibly heavily on all participants. One woman is so overcome that she vomits. Everyone talks about health insurance. Several people claim this is the hardest decision they’ve ever made. Many, many tears are shed. And perhaps unsurprisingly, people demonstrate impressive generosity. That’s the point of the show, right? To show how generous people truly are? Surely these people were screened not just for emotive telegenics but also for proclivity toward magnanimity.
Well, no, not really, that’s how human beings work actually. As tha classic economic experiment, the ultimatum game shows.
And this is of course a version of that ultimatum game. A one time, going in both directions, real life version of it. I don’t, of course, know what the splits being offered are. But I would be surprised if anyone offered less that 30% of the cash to the other people.
But perhaps Dave Broome, the originator of the show missed a trick here. Because wouldn’t it be fun to have the other part of that game? Where if there’s a rejection, then no one gets anything? Here, a rejection being offering more than 10% less than the other participants are offering you?
That would be a lovely reveal, wouldn’t it? (Strokes white cat, feeds shark, puffs cigar.)