MTV’s new show, “Stranded with a Million Dollars,” serves up a twist on the reality survival show.
On the new series, which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m., 10 millennials from diverse backgrounds accept the challenge of living on the island of Taveuni, Fiji. But they’re also given a total of $1 million to spend on a variety of food, tools, and luxuries at outrageous prices. In the end, those who are able to last for 40 days will get to divide whatever’s left of the million-dollar bounty.
With its million-dollar twist and the tough living conditions, viewers get an ample look at the cast members’ attitudes toward money.
“I was guilty of the preconceived notion that millennials are lazy and don’t understand the value of money,” “Stranded” creator Kevin Lee recently told Business Insider. “And what happened during the 40 days that we were filming in the woods is that I learned that was wrong. That notion was wrong.”
Reactions to the harsh environment and the financial windfall are captured by the show’s use of flying drones and automatic cameras.
“On any given day, there’s approximately 30 cameras in play that don’t have humans holding them,” Lee said. “That made all the difference in the world… I think they headed toward more extreme behavior because they didn’t feel that they were being judged by the human holding the camera. When there’s just a robot camera, they don’t care what the robot thinks.”
Here’s what the creator of MTV’s “Stranded with a Million Dollars” learned about millennial spending habits while shooting the show:
1. The biggest strategic mistake: Contenders failed to invest their money early on, so that it could help them win later.
“I think one of the big strategic mistakes that was made on the show, at least early in the show, were the cast members who didn’t understand the idea that you have to spend some money now in order to win or gain more money later on,” Lee said.
“They mistakenly made the calculation that they should be frugal and not spend one penny ever,” he continued. “They have to be willing to invest a small amount in their survival in order to win at the end, and they didn’t realize that… And guess what? They never made it.”
2. The best course correction: Some cast members did come around to realizing an early strategic purchase would really pay off.
“If you’re going to spend $30,000 on a pot, you may as well do it on day one as opposed to spending $30,000 halfway through, after you’ve been drinking dirty water for 20 days and you’re sick,” Lee said. “Some cast members were smart, like, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re gonna get ripped off whether we buy it on day one or day 20. Let’s just buy it on day one. Obviously, they didn’t, but eventually they got around to that – they understood that strategic level. That was a real smart play on their part. Took them a few days, but eventually they figured that out.”
3. The most “unexpected” social insight: Bonds over views around money overcame personality and cultural differences.
Lee said the cast splintered into groups that shared similar strategic plans around the money and crossed geographical or cultural divides, something the show creator called “unexpected.”
“Basically, you see this cast member named Cody,” he said. “He comes from a pretty conservative background and his family is very entrepreneurial. They’re very willing to delay gratification for the long-term good. He ended up bonding with a girl named Makani, who couldn’t have come from a more different background. She’s a free spirit, alternative girl who traveled the world and is a bit of a hippie. So the conservative and the hippie girl ended up bonding over their mutual decision to not spend money and to delay gratification. And that was a huge surprise.
“In the real world they would never get along,” he continued. “They would never even know each other in the real world, because they come from such different tribes. But because they both shared this notion that money’s valuable and we gotta preserve it, and not spend, they bonded.”
4. In conclusion: Millennials aren’t really that different from other generations when it comes to money.
“Basically, one-third of the 10 people really valued valued money and were willing to suffer and delay gratification in order to get more money at the end,” Lee told us. “About one-third of the cast members were lazy and unwilling to to delay gratification and wanted to spend it right away, just for the temporary creature comfort, and about one-third fell in the middle.
“At the end of 40 days, I came out of it realizing that the millennials are probably about the same as the Baby Boomers and Gen X… And that was a big lesson for me.”
Watch a trailer for MTV”s “Stranded with a Million Dollars” below: