America’s ‘absurd’ new game show
AMERICA'S newest game show is causing a stir, with a number of people labelling it dystopian.
The show pits recent university graduates against each other in a traditional trivia game show format and the winner gets their student debt paid off - kind of like a financial Hunger Games for struggling anthropology graduates.
The level of student debt in the US is at runaway levels, reaching a staggering $2 trillion ($US1.5 trillion) in value recently. The average graduate now carries a debt burden of $49,560.
Contestants who are mostly in their late 20s or early 30s, must be carrying university debt to appear on the show.
As the first episode is about to go to air, the reaction has been mixed. But that's kind of the point.
According to the show's host, comedian Michael Torpey, the concept was deliberately meant to be a bit "absurd" to highlight the enormity of the student debt crisis in the country.
"One of the mantras is 'an absurd show to match an absurd crisis,'" he told the Washington Post. "A game show feels really apt because this is the state of things right now."
Mr Torpey conceived the idea after struggling with the high level of student debt his wife had accrued. He enlisted the help of a non-profit group called Student Debt Crisis to get the idea off the ground.
There is a political edge to the show. "If you're just tuning in, yah, this is real life in America," Mr Torpey says before going to an ad break in one episode.
While the show is lighthearted and silly, it also strikes a fatalistic tone at times with the host including a "super-depressing fact of the week" in each episode.
It was a sentiment mirrored in the online response to the show.
"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**ked we are as a society," wrote one New Yorker on Twitter.
"This is straight off a dystopian-future TV show," said another.
However others were keen to sign up.
The US doesn't have a more forgiving student loan system like the HECS-HELP system in Australia. Many US students take out sizeable loans which quickly begin accruing interest.
"I've paid $33,685.71 towards my $50,000 in student loans. That b**ch is still at $48,000," one graduate complained in a tweet that went viral last week, receiving more than 317,000 likes.
The interest paid on a mortgage loan on the US is tax deductible but that is not the case for a majority of student loans, meaning some debts can get out of control.
That's what happened to Clark Moffatt who graduated from San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School of Law more than a decade ago but struggled to find a job in the legal profession. With more than $230,000 in student debt he sued his former university, claiming they had misled students and exaggerated postgraduation employment figures and future salary expectations.
A growing number of graduates have sued universities in recent years as they look for way to wriggle out of their debt.
According to a recent report, the average outstanding balance of student debt in the country has ballooned by 62 per cent over the last 10 years. For many people, it will be the second biggest expense in their life behind buying a house.
The creator of the new game show hopes the sobering message at the core of the program will help affect some political change.
"Call your representatives right now," Mr Torpey says at the end of each episode, "and tell them you need a better solution than this game show."