MTV has an early gift for us this holiday season: a second season of its new reality series, Catfish: The TV Show.
The series, which takes the premise of host Nev Schulman’s 2010 documentary Catfish and applies to a weekly, docu-series format, debuted on Nov. 12 to MTV’s highest series premiere ratings in an 11 PM timeslot in the cable network’s history. And with only six hour-long episodes, Catfish has captured a sizable audience – it averages a 2.3 share among people age 12-34 (the network’s target demo). It also happens to be the best new reality show on television.
While Schulman’s 2010 documentary was received with skepticism about its truthfulness and frustration over its inability to deliver the shocks promised by its trailers, Catfish: The TV Show turns the camera away from Schulman long enough to focus on teens and young people who’ve been duped into deceitful internet relationships.
And while Schulman’s relationship with a middle aged woman posing as a young, hot girl in the film was draped in a hopeless disappointment with the pitfalls of an internet-obsessed society, the TV version offers a more constructive – and far more interesting – take on the mind-boggling phenomenon of the false internet relationships many of us thought had died with AOL chatrooms and the rise of 15 different varieties of video chatting applications.
The beauty of the show, however short its existence, is that while you can almost always expect the internet dream boat to appear as anything but dreamy once the veil is lifted, all reveals are not created equal. Not every person with a faux identity is someone who’s bored and makes us uncomfortable with the loneliness born out of an internet culture. The reasons for duping their victims isn’t always so simple, from a man trapped in a life he never wanted, to a young girl whose revenge plot turned into a full-fledged second life, to an overweight young woman whose self-esteem was so low she thought the only way she could find the affection she craved was through deception.
While the series delivers on the promise of suspense, shock, and drama, it also gives us a deeper look at the societal issues that could lead a person to create such an elaborate ruse, and refuse to let go – even when it stands to hurt the person on the receiving end. It’s thought-provoking and just dramatic enough to keep the entertainment factor at eleven, without reaching exploitative territory. The series is, in a word, a gem.
The next episode of Catfish: The TV Show airs Monday, Jan. 7 at 11 PM ET on MTV after Teen Mom 2. And if you’re not watching it, just know, you’ve made a huge mistake.
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[Photo Credit: MTV]