In the golden age of game shows, you competed for cars or dream vacations. TV's newest game show has a decidedly more practical premise: win money to pay off your student loans.
"Paid Off," which airs on truTV on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST and is hosted by Michael Torpey ("Orange is the New Black"), lets recent graduates compete for the chance to get rid of their loans. "The situation around student debt is absurdly tragic,” Torpey tells CNBC Make It.
While he didn't have student loans himself, Torpey used the proceeds from his first big acting gig, a national underwear ad campaign, to help pay off his wife's debt. The experience bubbled up into the idea for the game show, he says. He wanted to do something similar to Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee and John Oliver: funny, but with an impact.
“Because it’s absurd, we can tell jokes and laugh at it, but there’s still a tragedy there," he says, since debt "is holding back millions of people. It’s holding back our nation’s economy.”
Contestant Madeleine Pilon, 28, one of those millions of people, saw the game as an opportunity to get her life back on track. “I had friends who graduated with no debt. The things they were able to do and the freedom they had to make choices was very different from what I had,” she tells CNBC Make It. “At this point in our lives, over five years later, they are a lot further than I am financially.”