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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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:

  • Absentee Actor: Max was absent for a few episodes in Season 4 when he was shooting the film We Are Your Friends with Zac Efron.
    • Nev took a few episodes off in Season 6 to be by his wife's side when their daughter was born.
  • 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.
    • At least twice, in spite of the catfish coming clean, the hopeful has a hard time accepting the truth. A glaring instance was that of Spencer, who 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 “Katy,” using a stone from one of his grandmother’s rings. “Katy” turned out to be a young woman named Harriet, and despite being presented with strong evidence that “Katy” was not actually Katy Perry and being flown to England to come face to face with Harriet, who admitted her deception, 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. It turned out that though the account was indeed his, Rich himself wasn’t active on social media. His nephew Rove, however, did have access to the Instagram account and had used it to catfish Sheila, among others.
  • Confession Cam: Averted, but the Untold Stories episodes features these.
  • Dating Service Disaster: The whole point of the show.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens to the hopeful when they find out that the person they've been talking to isn't actually them.
  • 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.
  • Gold Digger: Season 8’s Tayy, who had a fiancé, but catfished L.A. stylist Jason in order to worm his way into the latter’s lifestyle. He convinced Jason to send him money, claiming that it was to fix a broken phone, but bought himself a pair of expensive shoes instead. When confronted by Nev, Kamie, and Jason via Zoom, he admitted that he’d intended to dump his fiancé to get with Jason instead. When an incensed Jason told him to pound sand, Tayy went on a tear against Nev and Kamie, blaming Catfish for ruining his plans. In return, they booted him from the call.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Nev and Max are really close and it is really evident when you watch an episode. Even after Max departed the series in Season 7 to focus on his filmmaking career, Nev would check in with him, and at least a couple of these times were shown onscreen.
  • 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.
    • Jacqueline, also known as Tracey Barbie, had stolen Falesha's pictures and practically ruined her life. When Falesha confronted her, Tracey just laughed maniacally, and actually accused Falesha of stealing the non-existent 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."
    • Season 4's Hundra, who kept calling attention to her being gay and Haitian as if this was something unusually special, was talking to a girl named Emily, who Nev and Machine Gun Kelly (who filled in for Max) discovered was a woman named Geralyn. Geralyn was the ex of Melanie, the woman whose pictures were being presented as "Emily."
    • "Lanum" from Season 6, who appeared to be a 25-year-old buff, tattooed young man to an unsuspecting 21-year-old Ari. "Lanum" turned out to be Marcus, a 43-year-old schlubby guy who had catfished between 40 and 50 other young women.
      • Crossed into creepy territory when Marcus claimed to actually love Ari and held out hope that he still had a chance with her. Needless to say, Ari was quite creeped out, and both Nev and Max emphatically said that it wouldn't happen.
      • It got taken Up to Eleven afterwards, when Ari later received several texts from Marcus, trying to guilt trip her for rejecting him, and then UP TO ELEVEN THOUSAND when, the next day, Marcus presented Ari with an engagement ring, which she swiftly refused.
    • Season 7's Rove, nephew of Love and Hip-Hop New York star Rich Dollaz. He had access to his uncle's Instagram profile, so he used it to catfish hopeful Sheila, among others. When confronted, he said that it was all just fun and games for him, angering Sheila, Nev, and guest co-host Nick Young.
    • Season 8’s "Keith," in Catfish's first all-virtual episode. In catfishing Jason, he had used pictures of three different men, claiming that they were all him in different stages of life. "Keith" refused to video chat with Jason, claiming that his phone was broken, so Jason sent him $800 to buy a new phone. Afterwards, "Keith" still wouldn’t video chat with Jason.
      • "Keith" was revealed to be Tayy, who claimed that he had actually met Jason previously in L.A., but Jason denied this.
      • Tayy soon revealed that he actually had a fiancé and that he’d used Jason's money to buy himself a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes.
      • It soon became apparent that Tayy was only interested in Jason because of his lifestyle. Jason let Tayy know in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with him.
        Jason: Fuck you! Tell your little boo to go get him a fucking job so he can get you your lifestyle that you want to have, which is the one that I currently live, which neither one of you bitches is gonna get. You’re just a bamboozling, lying bastard!
  • 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. Tayy kept trying to reconnect with Jason afterwards, but Jason had since blocked him and had started talking to someone else.
  • 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. She (the catfish) bought an engagement ring with the money the hopeful sent to her, and said that the hopeful proposed to her.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: This season 5 episode was quite weird, even for reality TV. An 18 year old girl named Kayla contacted Nev and Max to tell them about a woman who had been talking to her dead father from beyond the grave, but the woman couldn't meet up. One would suspect that this person is a catfish con artist, but she was real. And even explained a lot more things to Kayla and her Aunty 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, who was straight, had previously been at several LGBTQ-centric events, William assumed that he was gay and used his friend Safari’s Instagram to talk to him in the hopes that Dallas would enter into a relationship with him. It goes without saying that William’s hopes were misguided.
  • My Nayme Is: "Nev" is pronounced with a long E, i.e., "Neev." It's short for Yaniv, which is pronounced "yah-NEEV."
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: In Season 8, 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. Feeling that Ashley had learned nothing from their last encounter and would again learn nothing if they merely went to confront her again, Nev and Kamie enlisted the help of Gemini, Red, and Ashley’s close friends Meka and Derek to stage an intervention for her.
  • 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 the delusional Marcus still hoped that he might 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.
  • Silver Fox: Max sports silver hair and is rather handsome.
  • Special Guest: Some episodes featured celebrities to come along with Nev and Max (or to replace one of them if Nev and Max are absent) to help the hopeful.
  • Stood Up: Though Mathan and Leah had been messaging each other for nearly a decade and Leah agreed to meet Mathan when he went up to Washington state to see her, Leah never showed up. Her sister Jasmine, who was sympathetic to Mathan, tried several times to get Leah to meet with Mathan, but Leah ended up ghosting him for her actual boyfriend, who had just gotten out of prison. A disappointed Mathan sent Leah one final message before going home. He never looked back.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: There have been times when a hopeful meets their love interest, it turns out that said love interest is the same gender as the hopeful. 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. Dee admitted to catfishing a good number of straight girls and boasted that they all still wanted to be with her even after her true gender was revealed, but 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 had contacted the show, 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.
      • As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pictures that Dericka had used to present herself as “Derick” turned out to have been those of a high school student. Even though “Derick” was presented as a young man in his twenties, and the boy in the pictures certainly looked the part, the fact that Jeannette had been unwittingly attracted to someone younger than her daughter was doubly unsettling.
    • 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. William wanted to date Dallas, and Safari was all for letting William reach out to him through her Instagram, seeing herself as a sort of matchmaker for the two. Understandably, Dallas was upset when the truth came out and even more so when Safari admitted that though she did find Dallas attractive, she had no interest in dating him herself.
    • Jonisha contacted Catfish because she was concerned about her roommate and friend Aubri, who had been talking to Brian on Snapchat. "Brian" turned out to be Jonisha and Aubri’s other roommate, Courtney, who had developed feelings for Aubri. Since this was the first time that Courtney had fallen in love with a woman, she wasn’t sure how to confess her feelings, so she adopted the "Brian" persona on Snapchat to reach out to Aubri.
      • Jonisha then dropped the bombshell that she’d encouraged Courtney to reach out to Aubri online with a male persona and had helped with the creation of the "Brian" profile. She then contacted Catfish in the hopes that the show would help bring Aubri and Courtney together. Aubri, understandably, felt betrayed after the reveal.
  • 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: 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