The premise is astoundingly simple and fresh: two civilians are given custody of a briefcase, the contents of which represent $100,000 and have one hour to hide it anywhere in a metropolis (the City of San Francisco, in tonight’s premiere). Then, after 48 hours have passed, if the briefcase is still where the civilians hid it, they receive the grand prize of $100,000. That’s a whopping $50,000 each and all they have to do is hide a briefcase for two days.
There is, however, a catch. The civilians aren’t the only ones playing the game. They’re being pitted against two local detectives who have been given the daunting task of recovering the briefcase. If they’re table to do so within the 48 hour period, then it is they who get to share the $100,000 prize.
To keep things as fair as possible for both pairs of contestants involved, there are advantages (and subsequently disadvantages) in their favor. The civilians can hide the briefcase anywhere in the city, but they have just an hour to do so (at which point, an ‘arrest’ by the detectives take place and the civilians are detained as suspects until the game ends). The civilians, free of any legal consequence, can scheme and lie all they like to benefit their cause. However, somewhat like the real world, the detectives have access to the phone records for the hour (numbers called and durations, but not the conversations themselves) as well as a GPS log of where the car has traveled (but not where it stops or for how long) as well as any receipts for anything purchased during the attempt. The civilians are well aware of these clues, however, so they are free to use them to their advantage as well.
There are some more subtle advantages offered to the detectives as well. For example, one of the civilians is handcuffed to the case and may only remove it when hiding it, which allows for the detectives to use that information for deductive reasoning when interviewing non-participants. The more obvious advantage, however, is that there are two civilians, each fully aware of what they have done, who are split up and interrogated separately over a two day period.
The detectives also have one other incredibly useful tool on their side, and that’s the professional interrogation team of Paul Bishop and Mary Stone, who use their skills to interview the civilians and provide assistance to the detectives.
What follows is an hour of some of the most exciting real life cat and mouse drama to grace the airwaves as viewers are treated to a rare glimpse of how ordinary people attempt to adapt to the thieving mentality while the law uses its limited resources and brain power to try to solve the case of a literal needle in a haystack in just two days.
I had the privilege of seeing tonight’s episode as well as next week’s and I would have been glued to the screen had I not kept having to pause to run off to tell someone (without too much detail) how incredible what I was watching unfold before me truly was. Tonight’s premiere, in particular, provides some brilliant aha moments as the detectives work to crack their case and assured me I have no place in the criminal workforce. Clearly those civilians who participated in the show and watched the $100,000 slip through their hands will have some forehead-slapping to do while watching their episodes as well as others and I’m sure the same could be said for the detectives who end up failing in their attempts.
In any event, for the viewer who doesn’t directly have $100,000 at stake, the show really offers some fascinating insight into the mindsets of people of walks of life and the show, in my not-so-humble opinion, offers up some of the most riveting and original reality television competition yet.
‘Take the Money and Run’ premieres tonight, August 2, at 9 pm ET/PT on the ABC Television Network. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer will be live-tweeting and answering questions about the show during both the east coast and west coast presentations at @bruckheimerjb.