TV Land’s tale of two series: Like a latter-day “Lifestyles of the Rich (but Not Famous),” the self-explanatory, Joan Rivers-hosted “How’d You Get So Rich?” feels tone-deaf, ill-timed and tacky, while companion “Make My Day” — a hidden-camera best-day-ever prank show — possesses a genial, goofy charm. It’s hard to imagine the same network ordered both, but there they are (albeit for a mere six-week run), creating a decidedly mismatched pair.
“Rich” producer Mark Burnett is a famously self-made rich guy, so his interest in rags-to-riches stories — a field he also explores in the more promising “Shark Tank,” premiering later this month on ABC — is understandable. But this series proves so misguided it’s hard to fathom its allure beyond the come-on of having Rivers function as host and guide, interviewing rich people about how they got that way while dropping lewd double-entendres about things like one’s “golden shower.”
People have always been fascinated by wealth, but in these hard times, it’s jaw-dropping to see Rivers seeking out an 80-year-old multimillionaire in New Orleans, of all places — as she does in the second episode — to display his ostentatious collection of expensive toys, which include a 30-year-old girlfriend. As various items are showcased, pricetags pop up onscreen, making a ka-ching sound.
Will a recession-strafed audience spark to this vicarious fantasy? God, let’s hope not.
Rivers augments her longer profiles with shorter snippets in which she strolls through Beverly Hills, yelling at people to tell her how much their cars or clothes cost. And while the series celebrates entrepreneurial pluck, there’s no mention of inherited wealth other than the woman who, when asked you-know-what, says, “I married it.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Make My Day” takes ordinary people and — with help from their family — sets up a dream day, capturing it on hidden camera. In the premiere, that includes providing a middle-aged guy from New Jersey a “chance” encounter with football star Amani Toomer and “The Sopranos’ ” Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore.
Granted, it’s an extremely elaborate set-up for a relatively modest payoff, but worth it if only for the climactic moment, when all the orchestration is revealed to the unsuspecting mark.
Of course, what these programs have to do with the channel’s nostalgic niche is anybody’s guess, other than the fact that the second premise is as old as “Candid Camera,” and in the case of the first, a lot of people who used to be rich aren’t anymore.
Then again, “How’d You Get So Poor?” would, admittedly, be kind of a bummer.