Today in the USA, it’s National Catfish Day, celebrating “the value of farm-raised catfish”. Apparently that’s a big deal. Yeah, we don’t know either. But here in TV, and on the internet, the word Catfish means celebrating something entirely different. It’s the MTV show about people on the internet who might not be all they claim to be. Following on from the original documentary film, four seasons have thus far aired. But exactly why do audiences keep coming back?
It’s easy for us to sit at home and scoff at the credulity of some of the people taken in on Catfish. After all, Nev and Max don’t have access to any special tools when they’re investigating. It’s all programs freely available online. But in all honesty, we’d probably be taken in almost as easily.
Then there was Artis, who was considering leaving the mother of his children for online lover Jess. Turns out Jess was actually a man with crazy eyes called Justin who was trying to teach cheater Artis a lesson. A lot of people online claimed that the story was made up by Artis and Justin so that they could get on TV – but when it was this entertaining, who cares?
Four seasons in, and while some online outlets think that Catfish should have ended a while back, what with its by-now formulaic structure and ever more extreme (and dubious-sounding) stories, there’s just something about the show that keeps audiences entertained. Here’s the thing, though: there are very few shows on the air that deal with people across the spectrum of sexuality and gender without turning them into a sideshow act. Thus far, Catfish has managed to avoid that. As long as that continues, this car-crash TV might manage to survive.