Pay It Off

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Pay It Off TV Poster Image
Positive, but flawed game show helps people pay their bills.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The goal of the series is to help people to pay off their debts, but the solution it offers is to give people the chance to win lots of money without a guarantee that they will use it to pay their bills. Contestant's life stories demonstrate that getting behind financially happens to everyone sometimes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kim Coles is the first African-American woman to host a prime time game show. Contestants focus on people down on their luck because of the economy.


Occasional music video clips sometimes feature performers wearing skimpy clothes and/or dancing suggestively.


Game questions include names of popular restaurants like Wendy's, Arby's and Outback Steakhouse, celebrities like Rihanna, and other elements of popular culture, but these are not offered in a commercial or promotional context. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this game show -- which is geared towards the African-American community and features contestants trying to win money to pay off their debts -- includes contestants' life stories, which sometimes involve divorce or other hardships. Most of the content is pretty mild, but the show occasionally features music video clips of performers wearing skimpy clothes and dancing suggestively. Popular celebs, restaurants, etc. are often named in trivia questions, but they are not offered in a promotional context. Parents can expect kids to ask about their own financial situation after watching this show.

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What's the story?

PAY IT OFF is a game show designed to help real people pay off personal debts and get back on the road towards financial success. Hosted by comedian Kim Coles, the series features everyday people trying to win cash prizes to pay off their car notes and cell phone bills. They must answer trivia questions, complete memory challenges, and play other games designed to test their knowledge of popular culture. When a player wins a round, s/he gets to keep the money and move on to the next one. If a player loses a game, she gets to take home the cash she's managed to bank up until that point. The contestants lucky enough to win each of the five games get a chance to play a bonus game for $25,000.

Is it any good?

Coles, who is the first African-American female to host a prime time game show on American television, continually reminds viewers that the ultimate goal of the show is to help people by giving them a chance at debt relief. Adding to this message are the life stories of the contestants, who explain why they need help paying their bills, and describe the goals they want to accomplish once they succeed in doing so.

Aside from these messages, the series contains the familiar drama of any game show, including the reactions of a live studio audience and the chance for contestants to call on someone when stumped by a question. Because it fails to offer any guarantee that the contestants will actually be using their winnings to pay their bills, their attempts to win as much money as possible still feels a little greedy. But for game show enthusiasts, it is still pretty entertaining.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how debt and finance are discussed in the media. How does the media contribute to a person’s or a family’s financial health? Given the media’s focus on advertising and consumerism, do you think that the media can effectively be used to help people get out of debt? How?

  • Other than winning money on a game show, what are some other methods of paying off debt? What will happen to the contestants who don't win enough money on the show to pay off their bills?

TV details

  • Premiere date: October 2, 2009
  • Cast: Kim Coles
  • Network: BET
  • Genre: Game Shows
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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