Piggybacking on success of the maybe-real, maybe-fake documentary Catfish (spoiler alert! Someone lies on the internet!), MTV has begun casting a TV spinoff of the show. So if you or someone you know is about to become entangled in a web of lies, if you're maintaining multiple fake social networking accounts or pretending to be a flirtatious yet innocent 18-year-old Asian girl so you can mess with your married creep of a frenemy, MTV wants to film you doing your thing, and then document how angry the duped will be. There's no way that this doesn't end with someone getting gif-ably punched in the face on camera.
The film Catfish documents one young New York City man's relationship with a family in Michigan, a relationship that begins when a child art prodigy sends him a painting of a picture he took. Nev Shulman befriends the girl on Facebook, then befriends her mother and father, then her suspiciously sexy half sister Megan. Nev's all like "a/s/l?" and Megan's all "lol omg rofl" and soon they're in internet-love. When Nev begins suspecting that Megan is a big lying liar, he and his friends travel to the Midwest to confront Megan, because the best way to deal with possibly deeply disturbed individual is to go to them. Go to them like a moth goes to a flame.
Anyway, without giving the whole movie away, at the end of the film, everyone has learned something important about themselves and grown as a person and the viewer discovers that the reason the lies exist in the first place is because people are sad and lonely and everyone has deepened their empathy for others, kind of.
But is it fair for MTV to assume that every instance of internet fakery will end on such a heartwarming note? Maybe I've watched too many episodes of CSI: Miami, but this seems like the sort of premise that would lead to a murder that caused David Caruso to quip "Looks like this death... was virtually inevitable." People don't like being lied to, and they especially don't like being lied to by people they thought they could trust.
Unscripted TV doesn't exactly have a bloodless history, either. Back in the 1990's, a guest on Jenny Jones murdered another guest after the murdered guy confessed that he had a big gay crush on the murderer guy. Not only did that show result in someone dying, it was the death knell for secret crush episodes of trashy daytime talk shows and the best part of staying home sick from school during the Clinton administration. The show Megan Wants a Millionaire was abruptly pulled from the air after contestant Ryan Jenkins killed his girlfriend, dumped her body in a suitcase, and then killed himself. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Russell Armstrong committed suicide, as did former Bachelorette contestant Julien Hug. Contestants on American Idol, Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, and Extreme Makeover also killed themselves.
It doesn't take a CERN scientist to deduce that lying + internet + love + reality TV might equal great television, but horrible repercussions.
But maybe the point of Catfish isn't to save the show's stars, but rather to find out what happens when people stop being polite and never were real. The Unreal World.