“Paid Off” A Noir Style Game Show to Pay off Student Loans

I do not know what generation Maxwell Strahan of Huffpost is of; but if he is of the Millennials, he has it correct in his HuffPost article. . . “The Greatest “Crisis of My Generation is Now a Dystopian Show.” The crisis? Student Loan debt, the penalties associated with it, and the inability to declared bankruptcy are the greatest crises facing younger generations and will also be for this nation when millions of them default. The Show? “Paid Off!

There is a certain degree of cynicism and blackness to this show which places it in a “film noir” category or show noir (if such a category existed) to be precise. Young students saddled with a life time of debt from profit and non-profit institutions to which there is no escape unless disabled or dead. The blackness to this show comes when the indebted contestants turn to answering zany questions taken from stranger categories in the hope of eliminating their student loan debt which should not be such a burden if they could work in the field they were trained or educated in and make enough to pay off the debt. If delinquent, the burden increases, and rather than capitalize the accrued interest, the student must pay the interest before they can pay down the principal which acquires more interest. It is a vicious cycle created by a Congress favoring financial institutions over constituents.

If an 18 year old student received the right advice and chose the correct education with adequate funding; they were probably successful, courted by others, and can now sit back and critique those who were less fortunate. If the 18 year old was not so fortunate to have had the right advice, direction, and low-cost financing or a paid-for education; they potentially ended up saddled with a lot of debt, indentured to a life time of payments, and a degree which possibly will do little for them. Having a college education has turned into a crap-shoot for many as it may not offer the expected monetary returns. Or as the Knight (Robert Eddison) guarding the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” said; “He (or she) chose poorly.” Or chose poorly because of a lack of knowledge, being sold a worthless product by hucksters, and a lack of jobs.

The “Paid Off,” show is a take-off of Jeopardy (see the clip below) except instead of winning money, the contestants gets a chance to eliminate student loan debt. The “Paid Off” host Michael Torpey asks each x-student-player a series of Jeopardy-style questions from selected categories which each must win. Each player clicks on a button and whoever is first and answers correctly wins that question and receives multiples of $100. At the end of the game, the person with the most $dollars goes to the final round and must answer 8 questions in 60 seconds. If they are successful, the show pays their student debt in total. If Michael Torpey is a familiar name to you, he is best known as the Corrections Officer Thomas Humphrey of “Orange is the New Black.”

A clip of the show

Here, Maxwell Strahan describes the intensity of the show.

“The darkness (my emphasis) and most excruciating minute of the series premiere of ‘Paid Off’ ― truTV’s new game show offering contestants the possibility of a life free of student debt ― comes near the end. Madeleine, a graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College, walks up to the middle of the stage as the only player to make it to the show’s final round.

Saddled with $41,222 in debt, Madeline has the chance to wipe it all away in an instant should she answer eight trivia questions correctly in a 60-second period. Before the final round begins, Michael Torpey of pauses to ask Madeline what her dream life would look like if she were to magically rid herself of the tens of $thousands she owes.

‘Right now, I live in a tiny little loft apartment with my boyfriend and my dog, I would love to marry my boyfriend and move into a home with a yard.’ (Sound familiar to all who have reached that point in life? Rather than funding bank profits, a couple starts to be more productive in their community and funds it).

If ‘Black Mirror’ is a dystopian glimpse at where society is headed, ‘Paid Off’ is an even more horrifying peek at where it already stands. Maybe on another game show in another era ― say, the ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ of the early 2000s ― Madeleine would have dreamed of a McMansion, or a fancy car, or a trip around the world on a luxury cruise. But this is the United States of America circa 2018 and it is much simpler and less exciting. Madeleine is one of the more than 40 million Americans struggling to get out from under a collective $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

For Madeleine and the millions of other people like her, just getting back to zero would be a reason to celebrate.” Hence the noir quality of the show.

Oh and did Madeline succeed in wiping out her student loan debt? Unfortunately; she answered 7 of 8 questions in the 60 seconds, won $24,211, and not enough to pay off the $41,222 she owes.

“I know it’s not everything,” a consoling Torpey says to her.

“It’s a lot,” Madeline replies . . . just getting back to zero is a reason to celebrate and move on while young in life.

Madeline’s Full Episode “Paid Off” The show and Mike Torpey hit it on the head.