Fox’s Secret Millionaire


By Carlos Portocarrero

This site has been retired :(
For fresh, practical career advice, please visit CarlosPortocarrero.com.

I guess I was really bored last night because I somehow got sucked into watching some of Fox’s Secret Millionaire. When the commercial came on the other day for it, I rolled me eyes, sighed, and shook my head—the trifecta often caused by things like bad infomercials, biased newscasters, and Norbit.

Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with Fox’s hi-jinx, here’s what they did. They took some really rich people and took away all their nice things, made them live on welfare in “the most dangerous neighborhoods” for a week, and then had them give away $100,000. We are told it’s the rich people’s money, but there’s no way of knowing if Fox is fronting that money or not.

Anyway, the show I saw was a father/son team. The father was “rich” because he owned an Aston Martin, a Mercedes, a Bentley, he had owned over 10 airplanes, etc. etc. This was the first thing that irritated me about this show. They kept showing the different millionaires (who each have their own episode) proving to the audience whey they could call themselves “rich.” The most popular answers?

  • I have cars: Love that one. At least someone is helping out car companies. Oh wait, most of these are foreign…never mind.
  • I’ll drop thousands on dinner: Wow, good for you buddy. This guy actually started his own business from nothing, so I wanted to like him. But put someone in front of a camera and tell him to prove why he’s rich, and watch him turn into a jerk.

Could it be I’m jealous of these dudes? Probably, but let’s not go totally of course. Back to the show…

The cliches abound on this show. The millionaire father of the episode I saw has a gold watch and some gold rings that he takes off and on a lot to show his transformation from poor to rich. He’s also got a weird thing going with a very orange tan. It’s either fake or he needs to put on some sunblock when he’s out on his yacht.

The production values are cheap. You can tell Fox did not want to spend a lot of money here. It looks rushed and haphazard, which doesn’t help when you’re filming a boring millionaire and his sheltered son. The big problem I have with the show is that, as they live their lives as poor people, they meet other folks who are struggling out there and eventually develop relationships. These other people are told that it’s a documentary about poverty and they seem fine with it. They open up rather quickly (less than a week) and become friends (I think).

Then, as the show winds down, the rich dad/son go back home, put their rich clothes on, and go tell everyone the truth. They go to three different people and hand them checks (one got $50k and two got $25k). The handing over of the check is probably the most awkward TV moment I’ve ever seen in my life. You can tell the “poor” people (which we haven’t really gotten to know well at all) want to just beat the crap out of these two, but smarten up and decide (with a fine bit of editing, might I add) that they should just keep the money and let these wackos move on.

When I saw the checks changing hands I was like “really?” Just like that? You’re going to give these people a check for $25k or $50k and that’s supposed to do it? Is that really the best way to help these people? It’s such a stereotypical “rich person’s” solution to the problem.

And that’s where the show really loses touch with reality. Because this is not about helping poor people, it’s about helping the rich people have a life-changing experience and about Fox getting some ratings out of a terrible concept.

And just like that, it’s over.

There was one scene that kind of reminded me of Extreme Home Makeover, but only for a second. That show always makes me cry and, in my opinion, is one of the most perfect shows around. Viewers get to cry/be entertained, advertisers get to show their products off in a novel way, people in need get a new house, and the show’s designers get to show off what they do. It doesn’t get any better than that. Besides, in that show you really get to know the families getting the house. This millionaire show does NOT do that.

But throwing a $25,000 check at someone who is “poor” just doesn’t make sense. I find it insulting that such a temporary solution is shown as being such a fantastic thing. Sure, it will help. But in the long term, nothing will change. It’s a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

OK I’m done talking about this show. Did anyone else see it?


20 Responses to “Fox’s Secret Millionaire”

  • Frugal Bachelor Says:

    I watched this show also and I agree with what you said. I think it was the most degrading show ever. The way that they think just shoving a few dollars in these people’s face and think it is going to change their lives. Also, I thought that the ‘sympathy’ of the millionaires was very fake, i.e. they always get very emotional when they saw real people and it just seemed way overly dramatic.

  • Mrs. Micah Says:

    I was turned off by the concept, so I didn’t watch it. But I’m not surprised it turned out the way it did.

    From what you’re saying, it sounds like the millionaires needed to spend more time getting to know these people. There’s a huge difference between handing someone a check for $50,000 and giving them a check for $50,000 saying “I know you’ve been wanting to repair the roof and replace your car” or “I know you’re worried about saving enough for Jane’s education” or “I know you’re worried about being able to make your mortgage payments” or “I know you want to go back to school.” The latter is still charity, but it’s not just giving someone money, it’s helping them fulfill their dreams or meet specific needs. It’s thoughtful.

    Throwing money at poor people isn’t.

  • Nikki Says:

    Hi – I also watched the show last night but I really enjoyed it.

    In one hour they showed us highlights of a week’s worth of time…who knows REALLY how much time they spent with each of the families. I’m not sure if your opinion would have changed if you watched the 2nd hour but that couple (who was even MORE awkward handing out the checks) was in LA and one of the families that received a check were rebuilding a community area with hopes of having a coffee shop to hold community events and church services in and movie theater for local people to hang out. Another guy was working on a living space for volunteers so that they were more comfortable when they came down to help out. These two specific examples showed people helping people helping people…regardless of who’s money it is, I think that is a good thing to put in front of people.

    I guess it probably depends on what you wanted to get out of it. I started watching the show interested in seeing what it was about and hearing peoples stories, not looking for problems with it.

    One thing I think would be really interesting would be to follow up with the millionaires a week, month, year later and see if they have made any changes in their spending or if they have gone back to visit the people they helped out. I know I have been spending WAY less on myself ever since I was fortunate enough to volunteer for an organization that helps poor people get into housing. When I saw the amount of money they were living off of I was almost ashamed of myself (and I’m far from a millionaire).

  • sue obrian Says:

    I LOVED THE SHOW!!! IT WAS REALLY A WAKE-UP CALL TO THOSE PEOPLE WHEN THEY SPENT THE WEEK LIVING LIKE WE DO. I THINK MORE PEOPLE THAT ARE RICH SHOULD SPEND MORE TIME LIKE THAT INSTEAD OF SPENDING’$4000 ON A DINNER’ OR THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON A DRESS OR PAIR OF SHOES!!

  • ~dawn Says:

    I was pulled into the show because I thought it might change the rich and the poor for the long term.
    I was very disappointed.
    It looked like rich guilt in one case (father and son) and fox’s lack of follow-up with both parties was frustrating. And it wasn’t even a complete week! On the 6th day they get gussied up and hand out checks.
    Will I watch next week? No.

  • Brandon Says:

    Come on, this show is so staged. The people the millionaire’s are helping may even be in on it. The second guy has a section on his website showing off what a great guy he was for being on the show. These millionaires are getting publicity, so even if the $100K they are giving IS there own money (which I’m having trouble believing 100%), they are being compensated by getting their rich faces on TV.

    The first episdoe was so fake. The kid’s comments and reactions were learned and perfected at acting school. He may have been on Broadway for all we know. Watch the show again and put it in your mind that he’s acting and you’ll see what I mean. The dad was ‘tearing up’ and saying that he couldn’t take it anymore. Whatever dude. Show me a tear or something.

    It’s safe to say I won’t be watching the rest of this series.

  • emmymicro Says:

    Maybe my local station messed this up… Did anyone else have the show just have music and NO words? They were talking but we could not hear what they were saying. I thought it was a strange way to do a “reality” show. Some of the conversations were typed.
    The episode in Imperial Beach is where we used to live! So funny bcs of course they only showed the awful parts and none of the nice things like the big houses or HORSES boarded there.
    They shot the worst parts and left out any of the beauty. They did a good job making it look like pure hell.
    Anyway, I think if millionaires or anyone else wants to give money away then good for them. They feel good and people who are poor get some money. What else do you want from TV? An episode of “Friends?”

  • linagee Says:

    I hate this show so much, I can’t stop watching it. I’d love to see a post-secret millionaires where we get to see what the gift money was spent on. I think it’s funny too how the $100k gifts will likely put these people in a different tax bracket so where they may actually owe the govt if they go out and spend all $100k.

  • jim bob Says:

    Just watched the show, the single guy only gave away $90,000? Wasn’t it supposed to be at least $100,000
    OF HIS OWN MONEY?
    others have given away more in the first few shows but not him, the 300 million man “G”

  • Greg Says:

    I watched the “G” show with my wife, and once we saw the checks for $35K we thought what the heck, what a scam, I thought he was going to give at least $100K to each one of them, come on. “Grocery shopping is tough” what a moron yeah, only millions of people do it every day, and what did you do as a teenager before you sold your first company, not eat? Is he really that ignorant and thinks giving someone $10K will be a new beginning for them? That won’t even buy you a new car these days. If he had a million dollars, maybe I could feel like he did a good thing, but he is a MULTI millionaire, multi!

  • Kittekaat Says:

    I just finished streaming the last season of Secret Millionaire. If you haven’t seen the show it is an “unscripted” reality show where millionaires go slumming disguised as normal people. They join the unwashed masses for six days scouting for people to donate at least $100,000 (supposedly of their own money) to. It opens with them proclaiming their riches by showing how ostentatious their lifestyles are. One boasts that he has dropped thousands on just a dinner before, another shows us his wine cellar with bottles of wine in it worth more than my car. Another has a dozen fancy cars, Ferraris, Mercedes, Aston Martin…you get the message, they are richer than any of will ever be, so Nyah!

    From a humanitarian perspective, the show is heart wrenching. Anybody who has lived in the American real world at all is painfully familiar with the struggles of people who had been laid off, abused, had sick kids, lost their home, blah blah blah. (Not to be confused with say the Sudanese, Ethiopian, Zimbabwan…etc, real world which makes the poorest of use seem as rich as the millionaires on this show) They also meet different individuals who are giving so much of themselves to their communities that I started to feel kind of embarrassed at how easy my own life, such as it is, is. It was these people that moved me the most. Like the woman whose house was full of the homeless kids that she takes care of with only her one social security check. Her homeless were not teens or adults, they were kids, mostly preteens and younger, or the ladies that ran the center for homeless teens in Las Vegas, the halfway house for women just released from prison, the halfway house for men trying to overcome addiction, the shelter for women seeking escape from abuse…and… and… and… So many generous and giving souls out there. These were just single people or small groups that were using their own meager resources to help those even more destitute than them. Pillars of the community shoring up the downtrodden.

    This show made me cry and cry. I was so happy for the people receiving the checks, and I did feel that the millionaires were truly moved by the people they met and what they had seen out there when they came out of their ivory towers. But if you think it through there was so much more they could have done (at less personal cost even) than throwing big checks at these people. First of all, the IRS will take half of what they received, so you have to figure after taxes they only got to keep about half of the check. If the millionaires really, truly wanted to make a difference in these lives, they would have done something more sustainable (and tax free), like JOBS to the unemployed single moms, homeless teens, and others that were truly struggling with no visible means of support besides charities. These millionaires are very well connected to other millionaires that own companies, even of they didn’t have any themselves that could hire, they could easily arrange jobs for people. The cancer ridden girl should have been set up with the best doctor money can buy, the volunteer organizations should have had trust finds set up for them. These millionaires could easily set up a trust fund account with enough money in it that the organizations could just use the interest to accomplish what they do. That would give them a parachute and sustainable passive income, and the initial outlay could be recouped or reinvested. One organization that got a check for $100,000 to put toward a new building which is just amazing until you put into into real perspective. When you think about it, you cannot even buy a 1 bedroom house for that, especially in the community they are in. I know that the check will help them a lot, but it seems like again, if that money was invested in their behalf to generate a passive income stream, it would help them more and for a lot longer. For someone that spends thousands of dollars on a dinner, and deals in real-estate foreclosures to make his money, they would have much better served if he could have given them a building straight up, then they would not be saddled with payments on a new building and they can focus on helping people.

    It is possible that these long-term approaches are not practical for the purposes of a TV show. What I would really like to know is what these millionaires did when they went back their mansions. Did they just sleep it off and forget it ever happened? Did they think about it for weeks without doing anything else? Did they go out and create trusts and foundations to help out more, volunteer more, let their rich friends in on the amount of poverty induced suffering there is outside their gated communities? I hope so!

    So, though I think the show had good intentions, the truth is that throwing a huge check at someone who does not know how to handle money is only going to help them in the short term, but in the end, they are likely to be right back where they started, with rounder bellies. What they needed was not just the check, but also some financial advice, or jobs, or something sustainable that could facilitate a real change and a ladder to climb out of the poverty with. That would have made a real difference, not the temporary feel-good show of a check for a few thousand dollars.

    I am sure I will continue to watch the show just because of how happy the people are when they received their checks. Release the floodgate of happy tears.

  • Mike Says:

    Firstly, I did a little research on the episode with “G”. Apparently, he did “donate” over $100,000, the last $10K just wasn’t shown on the version televised to the public. This is the information I got from Wikipedia about it:

    Note: Although the minimum required donation is $100,000, during the Episode 4 airing with millionaire Gurbaksh Chahal only $90,000 was shown (two $35,000 donations & two $10,000 donations). However, the total donations exceeded $100,000 and also included a birthday fund and computer lab.[2]

    Even with that in mind, I think this is a terrible show. With two or maybe three exceptions, half of the millionaires didn’t even work and their living accommodations were pre-arranged for them. Plus, the Canes Chicken guy and his wife were given a big Chevy Trailblazer to tool around in for their week. Oh yeah, that says “poor” to me. It seems so completely fake, how they magically come across a flyer or a collection jar or something that leads them to the person they are going to give money to, and all of these people just gracious welcome them into their homes after just a hello. Yes, I know, they are probably told that a documentary is taking place regarding poverty (the disclaimer made at the beginning of the show to explain what people are told when they see the cameras) but I find it very hard to believe that anyone would welcome these people into their home after a 10 second conversation UNLESS they were already promised money. I especially hate how when they do the issuing of the checks they tell every single person, in a very guilty and VERY drawn out way, “I’ve/We’ve been lying to you.” I’m sorry, but I really don’t think any of these people really care after knowing you for maybe a day. And besides, after telling them a sob story about how poor you are, do you really think they’re fooled when you show up at their door in hundred thousand dollar suits?

    The very core of the show, that being trying to help those in unfortunate circumstances, is a noble one indeed. Everything else about it to make it Hollywood completely killed it for me. It would have been a MUCH better premise if these millionaires went undercover as reporters or documentarians to gather information on the people they give charity to. At least then I could maybe HALF believe it. Personally, I don’t see this show returning for another season and I hope it doesn’t. The last thing the public needs to see in an economic crisis is a bunch of rich snobs padding their tax returns with donations.

  • JP Says:

    I watched the show, I thought it was great. You don’t understand alot of times the pain that people suffer until you have walked in their shoes. I myself am unfortunately poor and there are times when I would just about give my right arm for a little help. People don’t always want people to come into their lives and set them up for life, but maybe just a helping hand. Poverty is, there are no words that can really say how horrible it is to be poor. To have to see your children sick and not be able to take them to the doctor. Going hungry, because you don’t have the money to purchase food. I’m so glad that they put this show on.

  • Nut Says:

    I know all about poverty, not from first-hand experience but because I was raised in a country that’s rife with it. My problem with the show is the exploitation of these people in exchange for a temporary helping hand. A show like “Extreme Home Makeover,” on the other hand, does so much more. A new home, usually the mortgage gets paid in full, and they get to go on a vacation in the meantime. Is it temporary? Sure, but the house will be there forever.

  • linklings, a cold wind blows through Jersey edition | brip blap Says:

    […] Fox’s Secret Millionaire: This was a weird show. Bubelah and I saw part of it, and despite being a little bit repelled by it we did watch it, talk about it quite a bit and probably would watch again – which is, I guess, what they want. […]

  • C Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Seriously. No offense, but all you saps who actually cry at this stuff either have some sort of emotional problem or need to get a reality check. Do you really believe that some rich guy is going to just pick up and lower their standard of living just for some television show made by Fox? I mean, honestly, would any of you really give away thousands of dollars of your fortune away to some stranger in a rinky dink community that you don’t even know? Six days… Now that just seems too short to actually form relationships with multiple STRANGERS. Also, I’m not so sure that they would send a millionaire into the ‘hardest hit, dangerous communities’ in the United States. I’m sorry, but that’s the way I see it. I respect your point of view, and I realize that to some it’s good entertainment.

  • YoungActivist Says:

    I think that the fact that these millionaires are donating large amounts of money to the less-fortunate is very nice, but I don’t really like how they’re going about doing it. I don’t see why these millionaires couldn’t donate the money without having the spotlights on them. I think that it would be a lot more commendable if these millionaires donated money to the less-fortunate without being on national TV. What happens when the camera turns off and the millionaires return to their lavish lifestyles? Do the poor people become invisible again? Most likely. I don’t think that the millionaires think of that week living in a different lifestyle really teaches them anything except how good their lives are, which doesn’t help reduce their ignorance or help the less fortunate.

    I’m not trying to say that it’s not great that these millionaires are donating money, because it is, and that money is very helpful. I, as an avid social activist and supporter of many charities, just don’t agree with why the millionaires are donating money, because it doesn’t seem like it’s through genuine kindness.
    Flag

  • ML14 Says:

    @Nut – I agree with you, and also think that a show like “Extreme Makeover- Home Edition” is a better way for less-fortunate people to be helped. On “Secret Millionaire”, millionaires just help the less-fortunate for publicity. For example, entrepreneur Dani Johnson has been all over morning TV shows promoting her book and talking about how she was poor and living on the streets at 21, but was a millionaire by the age of 23. Her book was barely known by anyone before she was on “Secret Millionaire”, and now she’s all over the place promoting it. These millionaires seem like they’re genuinely nice at first, but when you dig deeper, you can see that many of the reasons that millionaires are supporting needy communities is for purely selfish reasons.
    Also like you said, the house from “Extreme Makeover” will remain forever, whereas the money on “Secret Millionaire” will just go away. Obviously the money will help for a while, whether it goes to buying clothes, food, or even paying rent for a little while, but after they money’s gone, do the poor people just go back to being poor and invisible? What happens when the camera’s stop rolling and these people are no longer relevant in the eyes of the millionaires? That’s what I’d really like to know.

    • Carlos Says:

      I’m sure that the millionaires that partook in this little venture felt genuinely bad for these people and wanted to help them for the sake of helping a fellow human being. But the way it was done just sucks, it makes them out to be shallow and not addressing the root causes of a lot of the problems.

  • Neighbour up north Says:

    This show is so contrived. At the time, and probably now, it was meant to totally brainwash Americans that trickle down politics works. When in reality it’s bs. They want you to think that it’s the rich who need to support the poor and the government is not to have any social services for it’s people. Absolute garbage. Trickle down does not work. The government needs to take care of it’s people and provide services; not pawn it off onto the 1%. They make it seem like it’s your responsibility to become rich in order to support the poor. How about everyone’s living situation be improved so we don’t have this absurd inequality of incomes!!!

Leave a Reply

*