First Impressions

Secret Millionaire

Aired on: ABC Television Network

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            In the new television series from the creators of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Secret Millionaire, the rich get to experience what itís like to be underprivileged and perhaps help those underprivileged get a hand up in life.  Every Sunday at 8PM EST, we watch as one millionaire is sent into a depressed neighborhood undercover.  He/she must spend a week in this neighborhood, living in the low rent housing available there and given a one week salary comparable to that earned by those living in the area.

            While they come to grips with living much less extravagantly than they are used to in often times scary environments (like Skid Row), they must find three charitable organizations within the community that offer the people of the community aide in some way.  Posing as someone working on a documentary on volunteering, each millionaire works as a volunteer in the various charities selected, getting to know what they do for the community, how what they do effects the community as well as the individual, what they need to keep the organization going, etc.

            At the end of the week, the millionaire must decide just how much of his/her millions will go to each charity.  Then they must reveal themselves for who they are an explain what they have really been up to.  They then present each charity with a check.  Sometimes, the millionaire will donate a separate check to a certain individual within the organization, or a individual helped by the organization, that they deem worthy for some special monetary assistance.

            Sometimes, we discover that certain organizations hold a special meaning for a specific millionaire.  One millionaire lived in her carprior to getting her business started and so an organization that worked with the areaís homeless was special to her.  Another millionaire had a special place in his heart for an organization that worked with the autistic members of their community.  His grandson is autistic.  Each millionaire takes away something from the experience, often showing a softer side when hearing the stories of why people have gotten involved with they charities in question.

            I have mixed feelings about Secret Millionaire.  On the one hand, I think that the creators of the show should be commended for drawing attention to charitable organizations most people never knew existed prior to the show.  I also believe that this show definitely inspires others to want to do charitable things.  I know thatís the way I feel after watching Secret Millionaire.  Yet, there is something about all this that seems contrived.  Is it a coincidence that this show has hit the airwaves at a time when so many people are out of work and turning a sore eye on those very same millionaires?  Could this be a way to spread some good public relations about the rich and take our minds off of the Millionaire Tax?  Could this be a way to keep us from thinking about the large companies laying off the little guy?

            That being said, I do find the show to be entertaining, but Iím not quite sold on it.  In two specific episodes, I heard a millionaire discuss someone he gave a charitable donation to as a friend for life.  While I would love to believe in those words, I would love to see if the millionaires even bother to stay in touch with these individuals.  Have any of these millionaires actually learned anything through this experience or is this a charitable moment soon to be forgotten?

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