Overinflated college tuition facilitated by a bottomless ocean of student loans has so far trapped forty-five million Americans with a record $1.48 trillion in non-dischargeable debt – an amount which has more than doubled since the 2009 lows.
As we reported in January, approximately 40 percent of student loans taken out in 2004 are projected to default by 2023 according to the Brookings Institute.
However, a new game show on TruTV offers millennial contestants a chance to answer trivia questions — and if they win, the game show will pay off their student debt.
“Paid Off,” a new trivia game show that premiered this week tries to illuminate the student debt crisis that has entrapped millions of millennials. To get the balance right, the show’s producers partnered with a nonprofit group called Student Debt Crisis.
Its executive director and founder, Natalia Abrams, gave this advice to producers: “Every step of the way, from signing up for college to paying back their loans, it’s been a confusing process. So make sure that there’s some heart to this show.”
Video: Paid Off with Michael Torpey Season 1 Trailer
Michael Torpey, a New York-based actor (“Orange is the New Black”) who is the host of the show, acknowledges that student debt is a crisis and one of the most difficult financial issues plaguing millennials in the gig economy.
“We’re playing in a weird space of dark comedy,” said Torpey, who developed the show with TruTV producers and various nonprofit groups. “As a comedian, I think a common approach to a serious topic is to try to laugh at it first.”
Video: Paid Off with Michael Torpey – The Story Behind Paid Off with Michael
The rules of game show are simple: Three millennial contestants, all of whom have an exorbitant amount of student debt, go head-to-head in a few rounds of trivia questions, hoping that their useless liberal arts degree enables them to answer enough questions right. If they win, well, the show will cover 100 percent of their outstanding student loans.
“One of the mantras is ‘an absurd show to match an absurd crisis,’” Torpey told The Washington Post. “A game show feels really apt because this is the state of things right now.”
Earlier this year, the show had a casting call in Atlanta – this is what the casting flyer stated: “truTV’s new comedy games show PAID OFF is going to do something the government won’t – help people get out of student loan debt! If you’re smart, funny, live in the Atlanta area and have student loan debt, We Want You!”
Video: Paid Off with Michael Torpey – Finger The Masters
Torpey told NBC that “he strives to balance the light-hearted trappings of a game show with an earnest, empathetic look at the student debt issue.”
“I want to be very respectful of the folks who come on our show, who opened their hearts and shared their struggles with us,” Torpey said. “I hope this show destigmatizes debt. I mean, there are 45 million borrowers out there. It is a huge number of people!”
Google searches for “paid off game show” have been surging since June.
Millennials are also wondering how to “sign up” for the show.
Meanwhile, “student loans forgiveness” searches have been surging over the cycle.
It seems like one millennial on Twitter received the memo:
Apparently there’s a new game show on @truTV called Paid Off and if you win they pay off your student loans….. so where do I sign up?
— Mary Katherine (@TheVirginMary_) July 10, 2018
Another millennial tweeted: “There’s a new game show on American television in which people compete to help get their student loans paid off, in case you’re wondering how f*cked we are as a society.”
There's a new game show on American television in which people compete to help get their student loans paid off, in case you're wondering how fucked we are as a society.
— Meg (Vermont mode 🍺) Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) July 9, 2018
A Generation Xer tweeted, “Now We’ll See How Much They Really Learned.”
Now We'll See How Much They Really Learned:
A new trivia based game show will feature college grads who have outstanding students loans. Winners won't get cars or appliances; they'll get their entire loan debt "Paid Off."#Business #Career #Education #CompaniesShouldTryDoingThis
— Mark C. Crowley (@MarkCCrowley) July 11, 2018
However, there have been some critics of the new game show, suggesting the concept is demoralizing and insensitive to the millions of millennials dealing with debilitating student debt. “The Student Loan Game Show ‘Paid Off’ Is a Cruel Joke,” said Paste Magazine. The show “treats student loan debt more as the theme of a party than a public crisis that exists for identifiable reasons,” Paste wrote.
Torpey said that the purpose of the show is to raise consciousness about the student debt crisis, and he concludes each episode with a call to action: “Call your representatives right now and tell them you need a better solution than this game show.”
To sum up, maybe this new game show is a hint at what is next: A ‘Hunger Games’ society of the “haves” and the “have-nots” – that is, the people who have money and the people who do not. The Capitol, the banking elite, Silicon Valley and Washington have the money, and the districts, 45 million Americans in student debt have nothing. Millennials from around the country are selected to battle with their brains on the new game show — in the attempt to break the ball and chain of debt. While no one dies in this game, the elites watch the show for pure entertainment.
Are We Becoming A ‘Hunger Games Society?’
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