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Series / Catfish: The TV Show

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Nev and Max note  at work helping their hopeful to see if her online beau is legit

Catfish is an MTV reality TV series which explores the downsides and lies of online dating. The show is hosted by Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, and they travel across the US with their hopeful of the week to see whether or not the other participant in the online relationship is real or if they are, in fact, a "catfish". We've seen couples who have been talking for a few months and some for years.

The show is based on Nev's experience on being Catfished, which he made into a movie before the show premiered in 2012.

This is how a typical Catfish episode goes:

  • Nev and Max are fooling around in their hotel room before going through their email.
  • Nev and Max read the email from the hopeful, explaining how they met the person online, then it became more personal and decided to pursue a relationship. The hopeful wants to see the person they are taking to (webcam), but is provided excuses like, "My webcam isn't working" or "I'm too tired" or the hopeful wants to meet up, but gets stood up.
  • Nev and Max go to the hopeful's hometown and the hopeful explains more in person about the person he/she has been talking to.
  • Nev and Max go to a cafe to begin their investigation, with the information the hopeful has given them.
    • They image search the person's profile picture.
    • If the image search doesn't work, then they run the phone number of the person the hopeful has been talking to online.
    • They look for the person's social media profile to look for friends to see if the person is legit.
  • Nev and Max return to the hopeful to give what they found online, this is where the hopeful finds out that the person he/she has been talking to is definitely a catfish.
  • Nev calls the catfish to see where they can meet up.
  • Nev, Max and the hopeful travel to meet the catfish, and this is the big reveal.
  • They confront the Catfish to see why they Catfished the hopeful, which sometimes is quite sad, (example, the catfish was bullied in the past and they set up the fake profile to make themselves better), and sometimes the catfish is a right dick.
  • After the episode ends, Nev and Max check in on both the hopeful and the catfish to see what has happened in their lives since filming wrapped.

Catfish has gotten popular over the years and is even an integral part of pop culture. A Brazilian version of the show has been created, and the term 'catfishing' has been added to the Webster's dictionary.

Midway through Season 7, Max left the show to focus on his filmmaking career. Nev soldiered on with a rotating series of co-hosts, which included singer Elle King, model Slick Woods, Tallulah Willis (daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore), Justin Combs (son of Sean Combs), and Miss Teen USA 2010 Kamie Crawford, before Crawford was selected to be the show’s new permanent co-host in 2020.

Catfish features examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Justin catfished Artis in Season 2 because he was angry that Artis was actually in a relationship with another girl while talking to "Jess" (the girl Justin was pretending to be) at the same time. Justin came out looking to kick Artis' ass, whilst slowly clapping his hands.
  • Asshole Victim: There have been times where the hopeful has been a complete dick, to Nev and Max, and the catfish who actually had good intentions.
  • The Atoner: Mhissy, who had catfished Jasmine and mocked her when the reveal occurred, was shown in a revisit episode to have become a mother and, as a result, a much kinder person who felt remorse for her actions. She even asked Max, who was flying solo that day, if they could reach out to Jasmine so that Mhissy could properly apologize to her.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Carmen reached out to Nev and Max to help her cousin Antwane to find Tony, but it turns out that “Tony” was none other than Carmen herself using a deep voice to talk to Antwane over the phone (“Tony” had claimed to not have social media of any kind, not even e-mail). Why did she do it? Because, three years ago, Antwane had fat-shamed her. Once.
    Carmen: You should’ve never called me a fat ass Kelly Price!
  • Bittersweet Ending: At least 90% of episodes end like this; the catfish has been exposed, and vows not to catfish again, though a handful still continue to do so. The hopeful is heartbroken, but moves on, wiser from their experience.
  • Break the Cutie: Nev and Max do this to the hopeful when addressing the red flags that the person they are talking to isn’t legit.
    • The most heart-rending of such comes when Nev and Max discover the real person whose photos were used by the catfish; they then contact the actual person, explain the situation, then host a video chat with the hopeful and the actual person, who tells the hopeful that, sadly, they are not the person that the hopeful has been talking to.
  • Carpet of Virility: Nev's chest is so hairy, he might as well be the Trope Codifier. This can be seen whenever he has a Shirtless Scene.
  • Celebrity Lie: A few catfish have pretended to be celebrities; said celebrities include Bow Wow, Katy Perry, and Chris Brown.
    • Spencer was so convinced that he'd been in an online relationship with Katy Perry for the last 6 years that he had a ring made for her, using a stone from one of his grandmother’s rings. "Katy" turned out to be a young woman named Harriet, and despite being flown to England to come face to face with Harriet, who freely came clean, Spencer was still blind to the truth and actually asked where Katy was.
    • Played With in the case of Rich Dollaz from Love and Hip-Hop New York; Sheila was convinced that she had been messaging with him, especially since the messages came from his verified Instagram account. Though the account was indeed his, Rich himself wasn’t actually using it. His nephew Rove turned out to be the culprit, using the account to catfish Sheila, among others.
    • In a very unusual twist, rapper Dee Pimpin, who had previously been exposed as a catfish presenting herself as Bow Wow, found that someone had put up an "official" Facebook page impersonating her! She had tried unsuccessfully to take down the page, but eventually teamed up with Nev, Kamie, and Imari, the hopeful of the episode, to flush out the impostor.
  • Con Man / Gold Digger: Tayy catfished Jason for two years, attracted to the latter’s lifestyle as a stylist in L.A. He convinced Jason to send him $800, allegedly to fix a broken phone, but he took the money and bought himself some expensive designer shoes instead. It turned out that Tayy actually had a fiancé, but schemed to replace him with Jason. Understandably, Jason wanted nothing to do with Tayy once the truth came out.
    • Mar cruelly catfished Jason (not the same man mentioned above), taking advantage of Jason’s vulnerability after his divorce. Unusually, for Catfish, Mar was indeed the 21-year-old security guard from Las Vegas that he had presented himself to be. He milked Jason for thousands of dollars, and once he was confronted on Zoom by Nev, Kamie, and Jason, not only did he freely admit what he’d done and that he had no romantic interest in Jason, but also proceeded to insult Jason’s looks and intelligence.
  • Confession Cam: Averted, but the Untold Stories episodes features these.
  • Dating Service Disaster: The whole point of the show.
  • Fanservice:
    • Nev and Max, who sometimes get Shirtless Scenes and most of it comes from Nev, who has a Carpet of Virility.
    • Some of the hopefuls are not bad to look at themselves. An example would be Season 1 hopeful Tyler. One of his pictures was him shirtless.
    • The fake pictures that the catfishes use are mostly attractive models.
  • G.I.R.L.: Angry that Artis was creeping online on his girlfriend, Justin pretended to be a girl he named "Jess" in order to entrap Artis and expose him.
    • William hid behind his friend Safari’s Instagram profile in reaching out to Dallas. Not only was Dallas incensed when he discovered the truth, but he was further disappointed when the real Safari admitted that she wasn’t interested in him.
    • Isaax introduced his online friend Bryn to his allegedly actual friend "Stephanie," who turned out to be Isaax himself.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens to the hopeful when they find out that the person they've been talking to isn't actually them.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Nev and Max, very obviously so. Even after Max left the show in Season 7 to focus on his filmmaking career, he and Nev continued to check in with each other; he is still listed as an executive producer of the show, he has been seen as one of Nev’s frequent chat contacts and one episode included Nev and Kamie Facetiming him.
  • Jerkass: Some of the catfishes have been real assholes, and some of the hopefuls aren't exactly innocent, either.
    • Jen was being catfished by a guy named Bryan, who didn't show any regard for her feelings. In fact, he said point blank that he could never be in a romantic relationship with her.
    • "Tracey Barbie" stole Falesha’s pics from her social media and used them to create "Jacqueline," who damaged Falesha's reputation and ruined her life. When confronted, the unhinged Tracey just laughed maniacally and actually accused Falesha of stealing "Jacqueline"'s pics and friends and ruining her life!
    • John was being catfished by a guy named Adam, who did so that John would stay away from Adam's girlfriend. Adam claimed that he was the "catfish king."
    • Hundra’s story about "Emily" turned out to be a complete lie. She had recruited two other girls to portray "Emily" just so she could get on the show to come out as a gay Haitian girl, believing that her coming out would be an event worthy of adoration and would inspire more closeted gay Haitians to come out.
    • "Lanum" from Season 6, who appeared to be a 25-year-old buff, tattooed young man to an unsuspecting 21-year-old Ari, but was actually Marcus, a 43-year-old schlubby guy who had also catfished numerous other young women.
      • Even after admitting that he got Ari and other girls to send him nudes, he still professed his love for Ari and tried to give her an engagement ring.
    • Season 7's Rove, nephew of Love and Hip-Hop New York star Rich Dollaz. He had used his uncle's Instagram profile to catfish hopeful Sheila, among others. When confronted, he said that it was all just fun and games for him.
    • As "Keith," Tayy had used pictures of three different men to catfish Jason. He got Jason to send him $800 under the guise of replacing "Keith"'s broken phone, which he instead used to treat himself. It turned out that the only reason why Tayy wanted to get with Jason was to get a piece of Jason's lifestyle as a stylist in L.A. As if that wasn't Jerkass enough, Tayy was also engaged to another man, who he planned to dump in favor of Jason.
    • Mar was a right dick to a different man named Jason; not only did he not show remorse for taking money from Jason and admit that he wasn't interested in him, but he also took pleasure in insulting Jason's looks and intelligence. As if that weren't enough, he was extremely disrespectful to Kamie, telling her to leave the conversation when she called him out.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After learning that Tayy had catfished Jason and had planned to unceremoniously dump him for Jason, Tayy’s fiancé saved him the trouble (and his own dignity) and dumped Tayy himself.
  • Love Confession: After being revealed as not being who they'd presented themselves to be online, many catfish will throw this out in a last-ditch attempt to win back the hopeful, typically something along the lines of, "Maybe everything I presented before was fake, but my feelings for you are real." It never works.
  • Mama Bear: An episode featured a mother contacting Nev and Max about her son, thinking her son was being catfished. He wasn't.
    • The catfish's mother in one episode practically had a screaming match with Nev and Max defending her daughter's actions. The catfish had bought an engagement ring with the money the hopeful sent to her, and said that the hopeful proposed to her.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: One unusual Season 5 episode had an 18-year-old girl named Kayla who contacted Nev and Max about a woman who had been talking to her dead father from beyond the grave, but the woman couldn't meet up. Though one would suspect that the woman was a catfish con artist, she was real. She even explained quite a few things that made sense to Kayla and her Aunt Sharon. This even spooked Nev and Max and prompted a conversation about belief, the spirit world, and religion. Kayla was even able to move on with her life after this.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Because Dallas had been seen at several LGBTQ-centric events, William assumed that he was gay, or at least bisexual, and reached out to him through his friend Safari’s Instagram, with her approval. Unfortunately for William, Dallas was straight and wanted nothing to do with him.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Nev and Kamie have a moment of this when they discover that “Myranda,” who had been talking on-line to Gemini for the last 7 years, was actually Ashley, who they’d had a tense encounter with just weeks ago when she had catfished another hopeful, Red, under a different name and persona.
    • Subverted when Dee Pimpin’s name resurfaces as a possible catfish in Season 8. This time, however, Dee is completely innocent; in fact, she tells Nev and Kamie that not only is she not messaging the hopeful, but that the catfish had actually stolen her identity and had been hindering her from properly marketing herself. She eventually teams up with Nev, Kamie, and the episode's hopeful to flush out the catfish.
  • Papa Wolf: On occasion, Nev, and especially Max, have stuck up for hopefuls who were especially wounded by the catfish's actions or attitudes.
    • In the case of Season 2's Bryan, Nev and Max straight up tell him to never contact Jen, the young woman who he had catfished, again.
    • In Season 6, after Marcus still hoped to have a chance at a romantic relationship with Ari, both Nev and Max said that it would not happen, with Max adding that even if Ari somehow would have agreed to give Marcus a chance, he (Max) would not allow it.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: "Nev" is pronounced with a long E, i.e., "Neev." It's short for Yaniv, which is pronounced "yah-NEEV." Towards the end of Season 8, the on-screen graphic for Nev's name was spelled phonetically, including the macron over the "e," so that it appeared as "Nēv."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Kamie’s reaction when she and Nev discovered that they would once again be dealing with Myranda, a catfish that they had encountered just weeks before. In their previous interaction, Kamie was enraged by Myranda’s flippant attitude towards the hopeful and the whole situation.
  • Silver Fox: The very handsome Max has a full head of silver hair.
  • Special Guest: Some episodes featured celebrities to come along with Nev and Max, or to replace one of them if either Nev or Max (or Kamie, in some later episodes) are absent, to help the hopeful.
    • Russell Hantz of Survivor fame (or infamy, depending on your point of view) made an appearance in a Zoom call with Nev and Kamie; he was concerned that his friend Michael "Cowboy" Ellis from Big Brother was being catfished by someone who had tried to flirt online with him (Russell) months earlier.
  • Stood Up: There have been many instances in which the hopeful and catfish make plans to meet up, but one party, typically the catfish, never shows up. It’s understandably frustrating for those who spend a lot of time and money making the trip.
    • Mathan had crossed state lines to meet Leah, who he had been chatting with for nearly 10 years, but she ghosted him. In an unusual twist, Leah’s sister was sympathetic to Mathan and tried several times to get Leah to meet up with him. Unfortunately, Jasmine’s efforts were in vain, and a disappointed Mathan went home, never looking back.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: There have been times when a hopeful meets their love interest, it turns out that said love interest is the opposite gender of what the hopeful is expecting. The first time would be Tyler and Amanda from the first season, Amanda turned out to be a gay guy named Aaron.
    • Keyonna, who was convinced that she'd been in a relationship with rapper Bow Wow, was mortified to discover that "Bow Wow" was actually an aspiring female rapper who went by the name Dee Pimpin. Though Dee admitted that Keyonna was not the first girl that she'd catfished, she claimed that she cared about Keyonna and wanted to "take care of" her. She'd even borrowed $10000 from friends to send to Keyonna as "proof" that she was really "Bow Wow."
    • Shuntay was concerned about her mother, Jeannette, who was involved with Derick and considering uprooting her life to be close to him. Shuntay was right to be suspicious; Derick turned out to be the female Dericka.
    • Dallas thought that he had been talking to Safari on Instagram. Safari was indeed real, but it was her friend William who was using her profile to talk to Dallas. Safari was all for letting William reach out to Dallas through her Instagram, seeing herself as a sort of matchmaker for the two, but Dallas didn't see things the same way.
    • Jonisha's friend and roommate Aubri had been talking to "Brian" on Snapchat. "Brian" was revealed to be Jonisha and Aubri's other roommate, Courtney, who had developed feelings for Aubri. Though she had initially presented the story as her being concerned about Aubri possibly getting catfished by "Brian," Jonisha confessed that she had actually helped to create "Brian" for Courtney to reach out to Aubri and had called the show to bring the two together.
    • Bryn was introduced to "Stephanie" by his online friend Isaax. Bryn and "Stephanie" talked on the phone for nearly a year, but every time that Bryn wanted to Facetime or meet up, "Stephanie" would find some reason to not go through with it. Ultimately, Isaax admitted to being "Stephanie," hoping that Bryn’s feelings for "her" would transfer to him.
  • Wham Shot: The reveal of the real identity of the Catfish. In most episodes, Nev is the first to see, especially when the catfish is initially uncomfortable being on camera.
  • Wham Line:
    • In season 3, when Carmen is helping her cousin Antwane look for his love interest Tony at 3 different addresses and nothing, she drops this on them:
      Carmen: 'Twane, the reason why you (censor BLEEP) stupid idiot can never find who Tony is because I'm Tony.
    • The one of the most famous wham lines would be:
      Carmen: (in a deep male voice) "The Tony voice". (Which she used to catfish her cousin Antwane).

Alternative Title(s): Catfish