When I first read that ABC was producing a reality show called, “Secret Millionaire”, I thought two things:
1. I hope this show is about rich people with dark secrets.
2. I hope there are lots of tears.
After watching the season premiere, I was pleasantly surprised to find that both of my expectations were met…except only kinda and, also, not really. (“Kinda” in that the millionaire does have a secret, but it’s not a very good one because her secret is that she’s a millionaire and we already know that at the beginning of the show. And “not really” in the sense that the tears – mine included – annoyed me.)
“Secret Millionaire” is introduced to the viewing audience in a minute-long cold open narrated by a man who must be about to go to bed – he sounds real, real tired. And bored. You get the sense that he would rather be doing something else. I imagine him feeding the dog and then watering his plants while saying these words aloud. He has a lot of other important things going on, you know? It’s not just about you and all the poor people the secret millionaires of the world are helping – our narrator has a sock drawer that needs organizing. His voice sounds so tired and empty, I’ve decided to call him Sleepy Hollow.
For the first minute of the show, Sleepy Hollow does a play by play of all the secret millionaire stuff you’ll be watching for the next hour of your life. He tells us everything that’s going to happen, because…actually…I have no idea why he does such a stupid thing. Sleepy Hollow sucks.
We open on a lovely country home surrounded by lots of green things. My Spidey sense tells me we’re not in L.A. An attractive, middle aged blonde lady sits staring at…not sure. They don’t tell us. But she’s thinking about something. We know this because her arm rests loosely on her knee in a way that says, “this is my thinking pose”.
Dani Johnson Thinks About Her Millions
Meet Dani Johnson. “I’m forty one years old and I live right outside of San Antonio, Texas” (I told you – not L.A.). Dani reminds me of Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”: Southern with a sunny disposition that makes us think everything in her life is just dandy. She’s Sandy Dandy.
Sandy Dandy is a millionaire. We know this because she’ll tell it to us and anybody else who will listen a million different times throughout the show (Dandy’s favorite number is million). Dandy was homeless at twenty one. “I bootstrapped it, baby. I bootstrapped it and started a business from the trunk of my car and a payphone booth.” No, she’s not a stripper. She’s an author of of self-help books. She is a motivational speaker, as well as a radio personality. And she has the biggest rock I’ve ever seen (let’s not call it a “ring”, let’s call it a “distraction”).
Sandy Dandy introduces us to her happy family: a devoted husband, five wonderful children and a third grandchild “on the way”. They must all be really happy because they sit at a picnic table and laugh. Picnic tables and laughter equal happiness.
Dandy’s Happy Family
Two minutes into the show and Sandy Dandy’s crying. Her heart hurts for people who struggle financially. She was there, she was that person and now she wants to give back. Zoom out on Dandy resting on a chaise lounge. She’s reading. We know this because there’s a book in her lap.
Dandy isn’t just any Millionaire. She’s a Millionaire who reads.
Sandy Dandy’s packing. The producers really dig this red chaise lounge. Sleepy Hollow goes above and beyond the obvious for a second to let us know that, “For six days Dani will be living in a deprived neighborhood as she seeks out community heroes. “ But Sandy Dandy has bigger fish to fry at the moment. She’s not sure what to pack. “I don’t know if it’s going to be hot, I don’t know if it’s going to be cold. Because I have no information!” Poor Sandy Dandy. All packed up and knows not where she goes.
Sandy Dandy morphs into the “Secret Millionaire” as she removes her rock. “To hide her identity, she must leave her possessions behind and tell the people she meets she’s on a documentary about volunteering.” Don’t most Americans think documentaries are really just reality tv shows anyways? No? Just me?
Sandy Dandy gets on a plane that lands in Knoxville, TN. Sleepy Hollow tells us Knoxville has a University, a zoo AND a park!
We are assured this whole “Secret Millionaire” ruse won’t be wasted on the middle class, though, when the taxi driver tells us that Western Heights – where Dani will be living for the next six days – has a “little bit of a drug problem”. He wouldn’t want to live there. (Unless the drugs were free. Just kidding, Mr. Taxi Driver.) Sleep Hollow reiterates this information by saying that 51% of the population is below poverty level. This is all reinforced by footage of a garbage dump, people hanging out under a bridge and…an ambulance. Because rich people don’t have medical emergencies.
But seriously, this place does look depressing. Beaten down buildings, bars in windows, burnt out houses. An abandoned high school. Dani: “Wow, what happened?” Taxi Driver: “I don’t know, people don’t go there no more.” (I’m starting to get used to this show’s vagueness.)
Sandy Dandy arrives at her one bedroom apartment. “Absolute filth.” Uh oh. This looks a lot like my last apartment. I, too, was unsure how to hang curtain rods. Also, footage of this apartment reminds me that I need to put a cover on that light switch in my living room before my cat sticks his paw in it.
Sandy Dandy is not happy. There are bugs. She opens the closet door with her elbow. GAH! Wire hangers!!!
Dandy wants some Purell.
Sleepy Hollow tells us that Sandy Dandy only gets $40 for the entire week. Dandy reminisces about being on welfare. She used to eat popcorn for dinner. I’ve never tried eating popcorn for dinner, but I think I’ll start now.
Sandy Dandy goes grocery shopping. She spends $35 of her $40. Oops. Dandy asks the cashier if he knows of any place in town who needs volunteers. Of course he does. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t have a show, now would we?
Sandy Dandy didn’t sleep well. She felt “sweaty”. She drives to the Love Kitchen. Two little old ladies wearing matching aprons greet Dandy. They are twins, Ellen and Helen. “She’s five minutes older than I am, but I’m fifty pounds heavier than she is.” The twins are 82 years old. They built the Love Kitchen in the 80’s and serve over 2,000 meals per week. They’re so adorable, I want to box them up and send them to myself to open on Christmas morning.
Helen and Ellen
As Sandy Dandy listens to HelEllen’s story, she cries. Helen Or Ellen tells us why they started the Love Kitchen – it’s very sweet and, also, she mentions MLKs “I Have a Dream” speech. So now I’m crying too.
Dandy volunteers at the Love Kitchen by cooking, serving and eating food. Montage of Dandy chatting up homeless people and crying. Vagueness and crying are the go-to’s on this show.
While Sandy Dandy cleans up her one bedroom apartment, Sleepy Hollow tells us some more about how awesome Knoxville is. He then quickly reminds us that there’s poverty just five minutes away. Tramp stamp spotted on Dandy while she’s cleaning!
Dandy’s gonna “explore” the neighborhood (i.e. walk awkwardly up and down the street with a camera following behind). Homes have been abandoned. She talks to the locals. Everyone’s sweating. Lucky Dandy runs into a cute hippie on the street with a guitar and drum who just happens to volunteer at a non profit music school within walking distance.
Dandy runs off to meet Frank – a former conductor for the Knoxville opera and current go-to-guy of “The Joy of Music”. Footage of Cute Hippie teaching kids how to keep tempo in a drum circle.
Dandy meets another volunteer, Julie, while cleaning up some of the instruments. Julie tells us how the kids who come to “The Joy of Music” can’t afford to buy or rent instruments. This makes Sandy Dandy cry. Crying is coming easier to Dandy these days than pulling up her bootstraps. Dandy is crying so frequently that the Conductor says, “You’re gonna make me cry. Stop it.” Yes, Dandy. Please stop crying. I want to cry while watching this, but I can’t cry if you’re stealing all the tears.
Sandy Dandy finally gets back into her car and Sleepy Hollow says Dandy is now on the lookout for more people who need her help. As luck would have it (luck= well planned event by the producers), she passes a truck that says, “Special Spaces” on the side of the road.
Dandy’s Lucky Truck!
Dandy pulls to the side of the road and bumps into Jennifer, the founder of “Special Spaces”. SS creates dream bedrooms for children with life threatening illnesses. Jennifer has nine children. Dandy asks her if she’s given birth nine times (while making a confusing motion with her hands to indicate a baby passing through a vagina)? Jennifer says no, just three. She adopted six of them. It’s at this point during the show that I turn into a sixteen year old boy and realize Dandy’s boobs are enormous.
Dandy meets the crew and then helps them load the truck. Dandy and one of the crew talk about how blessed they are to have healthy children. Sandy Dandy takes a deep breath, puts her hand over her mouth and walks away before she starts to…you guessed it…cry! We get a nice close-up of Dandy losing her shit inside the warehouse. Jennifer comes in to check on Dandy. We then learn that one of Dandy’s children had a double aneurysm two years ago. The kid’s okay, Dandy’s just having flashbacks or something. Dandy: “There’s nothing like watching your baby suffer” (crying and squeaking).
Dandy has a breakdown while Good Lady Jennifer comforts her.
Jennifer gives Dandy a pep talk. That’s right, y’all. Bootstraps needs comfort from this poor tired mother of nine kids. It’s not enough that she brings joy into the lives of ill children, Dandy needs some joy too.
Sandy Dandy is dedicating her day of work at Special Spaces to her once ill – now okay – daughter. Jennifer thanks Dandy for coming back to help. We’re now at Daisy’s house. Daisy is a child suffering from leukemia. She has asked for a Princess Bedroom and that’s what Special Spaces is here to create. The crew goes to work. Daisy has a pink bedroom but the crew will be repainting it…pink. Jennifer tells Dandy how she has about three years left to continue doing this work before she runs out of money – she can’t feed her nine kids on volunteer hours. Jennifer starts crying. Dandy’s crying. Okay, I’m crying too.
Princess Bedroom for Daisy
The crew rushes to get the room finished before Daisy gets home. Daisy is surprised with her new Priness room. It’s awesome. She has a flatscreen. And a canopy on her bed in the shape of a crown. Dandy is crying AGAIN. (I am too.)
Dandy goes home to her “filthy” apartment. She says she’s blessed to be around people who are making a difference, not just talking about it. I feel like she’s pointing her finger at me through the television.
Sleepy Hollow calls Knoxville “charming”. Dandy goes back to Love Kitchen. She hugs the twins, Helen and Ellen. They’re so cute, I want to eat their faces off.
Dandy goes with a volunteer to drop off meals to people who aren’t able to leave their homes. Love Kitchen was hit hard by the economy. They need money. Dandy visits with some of the meal recipients. We don’t get to see much of this – it’s a montage – probably because Dandy didn’t seem to be crying very much. She goes back to Love Kitchen and gets more hugs from the twins. I want them to hug me. Helen (or Ellen) wants to know when Dandy is coming back again to help. “You never know.” Good and vague answer, Secret Millionaire.
Sandy Dandy is walking along some train tracks, thinking.
Dandy contemplates how to spread out her money amongst these do-gooders before she goes to bed.
Sleepy Hollow is still with us…but barely. I’m pretty sure he’s going straight to bed once this show is over. Dandy is packing to go home. She’s morphed back into the Millionaire. Her rock is back and she’s wearing a fancy red robe.
Dandy sits down to write her checks. We aren’t told how much.
Dandy’s Back to Being a Millionaire
First Stop: The Joy of Music. Hippie, conductor, sax player – they’re all there. Dandy says she was “blessed” to meet Hippie on the street. She also wants everyone to know that she is a very successful business woman. Conductor: “Uh…congratulations?” She then hands over a check for…drum roll…forty thousand dollars! People scream, they cry, hugs all around. Tears. Theirs, but mine too. Dandy feels pretty great about herself, so she heads off to visit Special Spaces.
Sandy Dandy wants Special Spaces to know that she started a “business when she was 21 and became a very successful business woman.” Cricket, cricket. Jennifer: “Oh my god.” Dandy hands over a check for thirty thousand dollars. Jennifer can’t beathe. She’s crying. I’m crying. Dandy feels good about this Santa stuff!
Dandy rings the doorbell of Daisy’s home. Daisy loves her new bedroom. Dandy wants Daisy’s family to know that she’s a very successful business woman and she has a 10,000 dollar check for them. Everyone’s crying. Yeah, me too. Dandy wishes she could give more than just money. She wishes she could heal Daisy. Alright, Dandy. Get out of here before you start calling yourself a Millionaire Medicine Man.
A promo for Red Riding Hood does a good job of distracting me from crying. Also, did you know that Desperate Housewives is still on the air? I’m not sure why either.
Sleepy Hollow does more boring voice over while Sandy Dandy struts her stuff down the street. There’s graffiti, so it must be a bad part of town.
The Love Kitchen: the twins are hugging again. I hug the air so I can feel loved too. Dandy cries and tells the crew about how she was homeless and then she started a business from the trunk of her car and became a millionaire! The twins clap their hands like Dandy just performed a magic trick. Dandy tells everyone how she’d love to be there cooking with them every day. They all nod their heads and say, “yeah!” But wait – that’s not what she meant to say! What she meant to say was – “here’s your check for $20, 000!” Helen or Ellen says that Dandy has inspired her to “do more”. Group hug. Fist pumps in the air.
I want some love too!
Tracking shot of Sandy Dandy, walking around town and reflecting on all of her do-gooderness. She walks past the train tracks again. Dandy tells us all that it, “doesn’t matter how much we make, we don’t need to make much to make a difference”. Then she wipes a tear and strolls past the train tracks in her Jimmy Choos.
End of Episode 1.