TruTV Game Show ‘Paid Off’ Tells the Sick, Sad Truth About Student Loans

TruTV's Paid Off aims at student loan debt.

Picture courtesy of John Nowak/truTV

America’s dystopian future is now, and it’s manifesting itself within the type of a sport present in regards to the crushing weight of our collective scholar mortgage debt.

“Paid Off With Michael Torpey” debuted on TruTV this week, billing itself as a fast-paced sport present giving three overeducated, underemployed saps the possibility to win cash towards their scholar loans.

Actor Michael Torpey hosts the present, which he co-created with manufacturing firm Cowboy Bear Ninja. In a sequence of trivia rounds, low-scoring contestants are eradicated. The one left standing is challenged to a lightning spherical to win money towards a share of their scholar mortgage debt.

“Paid Off” isn’t as fast-paced because it guarantees, and the canned laughs will be cringeworthy. However we’re just one episode into the present. Have you ever ever seen the primary episode of “Wheel of Fortune”? I didn’t assume so.

However whereas the sport present is fundamental in premise, it underscores the haunting actuality of scholar mortgage debt.

Higher Name Congress

TruTV, the TBS spinoff station recognized for marathons of “Impractical Jokers” and the primary weekend of the NCAA basketball event, isn’t the place you sometimes flip for a hard-hitting take a look at the scholar mortgage debt disaster.

However right here we’re in 2018, 10 years faraway from the crippling monetary disaster of 2008, nonetheless Twitter-shrugging in regards to the sorry well being of People’ funds. Our collective scholar mortgage debt is as much as $1.four trillion, in case you misplaced depend. And defaults on these loans are rising at a dramatic fee.

Host Torpey units up the primary episode by confessing that reserving an underwear business helped him repay his scholar loans. Then he makes every contestant admit how far within the gap they’re. They’re all freshly scrubbed twentysomethings with scholar mortgage debt as excessive as $41,000. They every name out the names of their alma maters in a sequence of sick burns to tuition charges.

It’s awkward on objective. Govt producer Michael Melamedoff mentioned that it’s simple to disregard monetary hardship like scholar debt as another person’s downside. However, “these are actual individuals with actual names who went to actual colleges and are carrying actual debt,” he mentioned.

As quickly as somebody will get booted after the primary spherical of trivia, the sport leans totally into the gallows humor. Torpey tells the contestant he’ll get $1,000 as a comfort prize, then instructs him to stroll over to a pink cellphone in the midst of the viewers and name Congress to inform representatives to do one thing about scholar loans. It’s not even a specific Congress member. It’s only a name to the physique as an entire. “Hi there, Congress?” the sweating contestant mews into the cellphone.

Anticipating a second “name” to Congress after the following spherical? Nah. This time, the exiled contestant is instructed to move an enormous greeting card across the viewers. It says “Stick with it!” on the entrance, and Torpey explains it’s for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who helped discovered the Client Monetary Safety Bureau and doesn’t like scholar mortgage debt.

These vignettes are symbolic, Melamedoff defined, reminders of the present’s overarching name to motion.

“The sport present is an absurd response and perhaps the worst response to this disaster,” he mentioned. “I don’t take it evenly that we’re making a sport present about an actual disaster.”

Whether or not you snicker on the jokes or are outraged at the truth that the present even exists, Melamedoff hopes that “Paid Off” encourages viewers to start out speaking in regards to the ways in which scholar debt has impacted our lives.

“We wish to permit individuals to snicker towards the grain of a really sobering message,” Melamedoff mentioned.

‘Paid Off’: The place the Comfort Prizes Are Nonetheless Prizes

Even after the primary episode’s prime winner walks off with $24,000 towards her loans, host Torpey offers a miserable reality of the week (trace: it’s about scholar mortgage debt) and challenges an viewers member to a bonus set of trivia questions for the possibility to win some money. The viewers member takes residence $1,000.

A grand could not seem to be a lot of a dent in some scholar mortgage tabs, however Melamedoff is proud that each one of many present’s 64 first-season contestants has gone residence with a money award. He mentioned that the present gave out near $500,000 over the season’s 16 episodes.

Earlier than the episode ends, Torpey sends one final plea to the viewers at residence: “Name your representatives proper now, and inform them we want a greater resolution to scholar mortgage debt than this sport present.”

It’s Melamedoff’s takeaway behind the scenes, too.

“Whether or not individuals love our present or are indignant it exists, I hope it motivates individuals to choose up the cellphone and name their representatives,” he mentioned.

You used to check out for a sport present hoping to win a pleasant trip, or no less than a rice cooker. Now, like a jaded teenager making a Christmas checklist, we’re simply asking for money. That is how far down we’re, how determined we’re. Please simply give us the money. Compounding curiosity has made us weary.

Half 1,000,000 down, $1,399,999,500,000 to go.

Lisa Rowan (@lisatella) is a senior author at The Penny Hoarder.

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