The Ashton Kutcher-produced show, whose debut season drew more than 17 million views to become the streaming service’s biggest original series, features college students and graduates grappling with debt. Student debt now affects some 44 million borrowers with $1.7 trillion in outstanding loans, a burden that has exponentially increased for many Americans during Covid-19.
Season 1 premiered in October 2019, and by the time work began on a new season, the coronavirus pandemic had shut down production in much of the world. Even once shooting was allowed to resume, the producers of Broke felt the show’s mission compelled it to reflect the financial impact of the pandemic. That would mean a different approach.
The new season, produced by Flicker Filmworks, is set to begin streaming in March. Episodes will be shot over a six-week period beginning later this month. In its new format, the show will follow six new cast members from around the country, documenting their “emotional financial makeovers.” In May, finished episodes for the full season will debut on Crackle, revealing whether each cast member has succeeded in “going from broke.”
New material is expected to surface within as few as 48 hours of shooting, some of it as “minisodes” streaming on Crackle and some on social media and digital platforms. Along the way, Kutcher and Dan Rosensweig, CEO of student services firm Chegg and host of every episode, will conduct a conversation across media platforms about student debt and the financial turmoil of the pandemic.
In a press release, Kutcher said, “This awesome production model brings viewers inside the transformation process. Going From Broke is the first makeover show that invites the audience to engage with the cast, financial experts and each other across social media while watching the process unfold ‘live.'”
In an interview with Deadline, Crackle Plus president Philippe Guelton said altering the approach to production was a way to capture “the fragile emotional state of the country.” The new way of producing the show “will enable us to go more in-depth” than the first season, which featured closed-end, stand-alone episodes.
Covid-19 “has exacerbated the dire financial situation that so many young people already found themselves in,” Rosensweig added in the press release. In the second season, he continued, “the stakes are higher; people are struggling with unemployment, mounting debt, and potentially physical and mental health issues. We have the opportunity to provide a lifeline and help them get back on track, working with them in real-time to get them on the path to financial freedom.”
Crackle is now controlled by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, whose Crackle Plus unit also includes other ad-supported streaming services. The company took over operations of the 17-year-old service in 2019, assuming full ownership at the end of 2020.
From a business standpoint, Guelton said, the financial model established by Going from Broke is attractive for Crackle and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. Brand integrations by Chegg and other companies essentially fund the show’s production. Crackle, he said, hasn’t completely abandoned the scripted series it was known for in the Sony days, when its slate featured dramas like The Oath and The Art of More. But unscripted fare, especially in sports has helped it gain traction with viewers and advertisers. It also helps the company depend less on the costlier prospect of facing off against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and a host of well-funded new streaming players.