The creators of trivia-based game show Paid Off are well-aware that the concept is a little grim. At the end of each episode, host Michael Torpey tells the audience, “Call your representatives right now and tell them you need a better solution than this game show.”

Paid Off, a new TruTV game show that launched on July 12, pits millennials against each other for a prize that producers know you dream of: your student loan debt paid in full.

The creators of the trivia-style game show Paid Off spare no expense in their savage wit. The promotion promises “a classic trivia-style game show with a Sallie Mae twist.”

As macabre as the premise sounds to struggling millennials, its (albeit unattainable) prize offers an alluring dream of escape from a crippling problem we face.

While wages remain stagnant and living expenses have skyrocketed since the 1990s, education has become more financially inaccessible than ever to millions of young people. Although the marketable value of a college degree has arguably become less important in an increasingly digitally-defined job market, the cost of a college education has risen astronomically.

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Millennials compete for student loan forgiveness on TruTV game show Paid Off. (Courtesy of TruTV)

Seventy percent of college students graduate with a significant amount of student loan debt. The average amount of student loan debt is $37,172, although many graduates owe far more.

Additionally, the burden of debt compounds itself when, over time, the interest on your debt accrues its own interest. (Many students, following graduated repayment plans of 20 years, end up paying back almost double the amount they originally borrowed.)

Paid Off will feature young adults in their 20s and 30s, some competing with as much as $50,000 in student loan debt up for forgiveness. The program will occupy a Tuesday night time slot on TruTV.

The network’s senior vice-president of original programming, Leslie Goldman, says they engineered the show with millennials in mind.

“It speaks directly to our audience,” Goldman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

“This debt is holding people back. It’s keeping them from buying homes, getting married, having kids.”

She’s not wrong. Yet in the face of such an unfunny problem, it feels a little insensitive for executives to dangle financial independence before us like a toy.

I mean, what is this, the Hunger Games?

However, the creators of the show recognize the problem at hand — and they want to draw attention to it.

An episode of Paid Off, premiering July 12 featuring host Michael Torpey. (Courtesy of Fox Business)

Paid Off host Michael Torpey, agrees that, yes, the premise of the show is a little dystopian, but so is the financial fate of an entire generation. 

“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.”

Torpey, a comedian, says he recognizes the absurdity of a trivia-based lottery for financial independence. He is vocal about his stance that while the show makes light of a bad situation, student loan debt isn’t funny.

He ends each episode with his plea to Paid Off viewers:

“Call your representatives right now and tell them you need a better solution than this game show.”

Do you think Paid Off is kind of grim, or could the show be helpful in drawing attention to student loan debt? Let us know what you think.

This article was originally written for Our Community Now at Maryland by Alice Minium.

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