At this point, no one actually thinks they are watching reality when they’re watching a reality show.
As an earlier post pointed out, Catfish: The TV Show, unlike Catfish: The Movie, appears to be just another reality show that obfuscates the truth during production. Because whatever airs does not representing the events that actually took place.
Hollywood.com got the victims of the online Catfish to break whatever confidentiality agreement is in place and reveal just how the show is produced and just what lies are told during the broadcast.
To begin, an overview for those unfamiliar with the show: it’s about the pitfalls of online dating, taking credulous 20-somethings who know how to Skype but purportedly don’t know how to Facebook stalk or reverse look-up believing the lies told by an unknown paramour who represents themselves one way online and another in person. The show claims the lovelorn person contacts the hosts about their love interest with the request to reveal the truth and facilitate a meeting.
. . .
And according to Hollywood.com, that’s literally exactly what happens. The show is lying about lovelorn people making the approach. This is how it actually works: The show IS reverse-engineered, with producers putting out casting calls for Catfish who reveal themselves to producers and agree to meet the “victim” before filming ever takes place. The victim has no idea, about the show or the Catfish’s identity, and gets a call out of the blue asking if they’ve ever been deceived by online dating.
“You know how they said that [the catfishee] had reached out to them?” a cast member from the series (who spoke anonymously to protect their relationship with MTV) tells Hollywood.com. “I don’t know why they put that in there because it’s not even true. It was actually me that reached out to them.” Another cast member (this time a catfishee), felt betrayed by an episode and put it plainly: “Really, I’m just frustrated that people don’t know the whole story.”
Speaking with local news outlet WHAM ABC, catfishee Joe Sumeriski of Warsaw, New York corroborated a story many cast members have claimed: that he does not know how MTV and Catfish became aware of his Internet relationship. “They just called me out of the blue,” he explained. Sumeriski was right. Hollywood.com has confirmed his catfisher, Rose, was the one who contacted MTV.
In fact, after speaking with six of the stars of this season (covering six episodes of the series), we found that in every instance except one, the catfisher — not the catfishee, as the series claims — has been the one to contact MTV first. Either via a casting call, Craigslist post, or a mention on the MTV website itself, the catfisher has consistently been the one to initiate the process. One catfishee from the South says she and her catfisher hadn’t had contact for “a couple months” — until Catfish’s producers showed interest. “We dropped off [talking] for a couple months and then we got it started again … when someone reached out to MTV about me and [the catfisher’s online identity] talking,” she says. “[MTV producers] hit me up, but I didn’t reach out to them because I didn’t know anything about a new show.”
There are, of course, truthful elements to the show. Every Catfish subject told us the series’ hosts, Schulman and Joseph, are indeed kept in the dark about the true identities of the catfishers. Their Internet research into these people’s lives are, apparently, all authentic. But the crux on which the show is balanced — the initial contact between Schulman and the catfisher — is in fact a fabrication. Everyone involved has already agreed to an in-person meet up before production begins.
Naturally, this complicates how viewers watch the show. If the two parties have long agreed to meet in person, Schulman’s random selection of a catfishee by scrolling through his email no longer seems random. And his dramatic phone call to the catfisher suddenly isn’t so dramatic. Is the catfisher genuinely surprised when Schulman requests a meet-up on-camera? “Not really,” says one catfisher. “Because they told me they were going to do it before they actually did it.”
But there are more discrepancies. Several cast members say the timing of their stories were off, with one claiming the show represented her relationship as lasting one month, when she was really communicating with her online love interest for three months at the time of filming. And two interview subjects denied their relationships were ever romantic at all.
“Manufacturing a storyline is a disappointing reality of where reality TV has headed, unfortunately,” MTV alum, and Road Rules: Campus Crawl participant Sarah Greyson, says. That said, “story editors can only be as truthful to a story as the people they’re attempting to represent. So many people watch reality shows now. They manufacture their personalities in ways that might deem them ‘castable.’”
People in other posts have asked how this show works, but really it's just an excuse for people to share their own catfish stories