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For students looking to pay off their student debt, help could be on the way with TruTV’s “Paid Off” show. With an inaugural air date of July 10, the new TV quiz show aims to help college graduate contestants saddled with student loan debt.
Slated for 16 episodes, host and actor Michael Torpey hopes to increase awareness about the numerous students and graduates carrying debt and give some of them relief. But it won’t come with the opportunity to phone a friend or buy a vowel.
Instead, Torpey’s show has a traditional game show format with three contestants competing in a fast-paced environment against one another via trivia questions embracing education-related topics. This includes questions regarding “ology” or surveys on best college jobs, reported The Washington Post.
While the show is predominately comedic, Torpey will ensure student-debt themes are in viewers’ thoughts as well as sprinkle in some good-humor banter with the contestants. He also plans to include a “super depressing fact of the week” in each show and occasionally provide a political bent such as “If you’re just tuning in, ya, this is real life in America,” as said prior to an episode’s commercial break.
So who are the contestants? Many are in their late 20s to early 30s with student loan debt; some have totals up to $50,000. For the winner, based on how many questions he/she can answer during the show’s speed round, TruTV will pay up to 100 percent of their student loans. This will be covered by awarding checks directly to the winners.
The show’s premise may sound a little crazy but Torpey recently said via The Washington Post, “One of the mantras is ‘an absurd show to match an absurd crisis.’ A game show feels really apt because this is the state of things right now.”
Paid Off may spur some skepticism, but Torpey, known for his “Orange Is the New Black” role, said the show’s inspiration came from his wife’s experience.
Upon meeting his future wife, Torpey learned that she had large amounts ofstudent debt from her undergraduate days at Barnard College and as a New York University graduate student. For years, the couple struggled with this debt until Torpey accepted work in an underwear ad. This enabled them to start paying down debt and looking toward a future with a house and kids.
Soon after, Torpey got the idea for a game show focusing on student debt problems; he subsequently worked with the nonprofit Student Debt Crisis to make it happen. Torpey and the production company Cowboy Bear Ninja pitched the idea to TruTv, and the rest is history.
Torpey said of the show, “I know what we are doing is a little ridiculous. But in a way the show matched my family’s story. The only way we could pay off student loans was because I booked an underpants ad? That’s insane.” Maybe not as insane as the country’s $1.5 trillion student loan debt.
Author: Debbie Baratz
Debbie Baratz has written about topics including personal finance, financial markets, and banking. And as a media relations professional, she spent 10+ years working at not-for-profit, private, and publicly-traded financial institutions. When Debbie isn’t working, she can be found working out, reading, or traveling.