by ecorazzicontributor
Categories: Causes.
Photo: Flickr via Patricia Drury

Maybe it’s the leftover unemployment and financial hardships from the recession, maybe it’s ABC’s marketing strategy, or maybe it’s just the fact that some people love a good cry. Whatever the case, ABC’s new reality show “Secret Millionaire” found a way to connect with viewers, as the show pulled in 12.7 million viewers. That number beats CBS’s “The Amazing Race”, which is usually the winner in that time slot and pulled 9.8 million.

The show takes multi-millionaires and transplants them into poverty-stricken areas of the country, having them live on welfare wages and volunteer for non-profits for a week before revealing their identities to the residents living around them, and cutting a big check for the community and local charities. It’s a tear-jerker for sure, almost to “Extreme Home Makeover” standards, but the show has sparked a debate as to whether or not it does any real good. Those in opposition say that the show goes for emotional moments rather than exposing the underlying causes of poverty in America, while proponents argue that as long as the checks are being written for charities, everybody wins.

The winner in late May of last year was Detroit, which was featured on an episode that is set to air this Sunday. A multi-millionaire and real estate mogul named Marc Paskin was relocated to a poor neighborhood in Detroit’s East Side, where he worked with local non-profits and lived in a small home before revealing his identity. The show wrote checks to local Detroit charities to the tune of $100,000 during the filming.

Interestingly, “Secret Millionaire” (which is adapted from a British show of the same name) was attempted by FOX back in 2008, but failed and was canceled after just six episodes. The fact that the show is a huge hit this time around either speaks volumes about ABC’s savvy marketing (and doesn’t speak well of FOX’s), or says something about how audiences have changed in the past few years, after weathering the recession. Whatever the case, I say if they keep handing out money to charities, they should stay on the air!