When it first premiered two years ago, MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show was an instant phenomenon. But somewhere in Season 2, the novelty started to wear off. Luckily, Catfish is back and better than ever in Season 3 — and things are getting dark.
Hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph aren’t just helping people investigate their online love interests anymore. Those halcyon days are over. Now they’re putting on their detective hats and exploring the seedier world of cyber-bullies, scam artists, and super fans. [Insert #TrueDetectiveSeason2 joke here.]
Wetpaint chatted with Nev and Max ahead of tonight’s Season 3 premiere, and they opened up about the darker side of the third season, the dangers of internet trolling, and actress Tracie Thoms surprising — and harrowing — appearance in an upcoming episode.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Let’s talk about Season 3. It’s a lot darker this season, and more importantly, it’s not just about online dating hoaxes anymore. It’s grown up!
Nev Schulman: I’d like to say that we’ve cast our net much wider this year. This season, we got requests from people who are being victimized — whether it’s by a cyberbully or a scam artist or a deranged fan — and are in need of help in identifying, locating, and confronting the perpetrator of this activity. So we’ve kind of become sheriffs, if you will, this season. We’re pioneering the online justice system of online identities and social media…
Max Joseph: We need badges. We definitely found ourselves in the role of detective more in this season than any other. The legal aspects of catfishing are very murky, and there’s a major grey area around online identity theft and we’ve had a lot of people come of the show this season who say they’ve gone to the police. And the police tell them that’s there’s not a lot they can do.
NS: That’s right. In a couple of instances, we pick up where the police left off because they didn’t have the time or resources to spend on it. And we’ve cracked some major cases this season.
That’s huge! So you guys must feel pretty good about yourselves at the end of the day.
NS: To be honest, we’re going to change the name of the show to Jew Detective. [Laughs]
MJ: At the end of the day, we actually feel pretty crappy. On the road, the days are pretty intense. They start early…
NS: We’re eating a lot of fried food with cheese…
MJ: Right. There aren’t a lot of great eating options where we’re going. And we also absorb a lot of negative energy and intense emotion — not just from the people on the show, but from the places they’re in and their families and their school situations. What you see on TV is only a fraction of what we see and experience. So by the end of the day we’re pretty anxious and angry and we need to blow off steam somehow.
Last season, you guys went to my home town, Woodstock, Illinois, and I was really upset because you missed a great b-roll opportunity to recreate Bill Murray’s famous puddle scene from Groundhog Day.
MJ: That was there? No way! How did we not know that?
NS: I thought it was Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
That’s what they called it, but it was actually filmed in Woodstock. There’s a golden plaque in the middle of the Woodstock Square with his footprint on it.
MJ: How did we miss that? Oh my god. I am so upset now. I’m really disappointed that we didn’t get to see that. [singing] The Pennsylvania Polka! I used to know that movie by heart.
But I digress. I was also really shocked when I saw Tracie Thoms in the trailer for this season. What’s going on there?
MJ: Ironically, Tracie Thoms had a cold case that she simply couldn’t solve herself.
NS: That’s right.
MJ: So she called the real detectives!
NS: That’s right. Basically, that episode addresses a major issue that we certainly know a little something about, and Tracie knows even better, which is the idea of the super fan — people who love a celebrity and make it their life goal to engage with and become friends with that person via social media. Of course, that can be amazing and wonderful, but sometimes, people take it too far, and in this case, this person did and we wanted to confront them.
Do you guys have super fans now?
NS: We do!
MJ: We do have super fans, and we happen to be lucky enough to have amazing super fans that engage with other fans and make pictures and art. We’re very lucky in that sense.
Do some of your super fans ever go too far?
MJ: Occasionally, people go a little too far on Twitter or Instagram to get attention, and we have to resort to blocking those people. I get a lot of comments on my Instagram from people that Nev has blocked, saying, “Can you please ask Nev to unblock me? I’ll swear I’ll stop yelling at him!”
NS: The worst thing I think I’ve seen as a result of my exposure on social media and television is people not being nice to my girlfriend.
MJ: Or my sister. It makes you think twice about showing any of your personal life online because people can be really mean and cruel. And then all of a sudden, you pull your family members into it, and they’re just innocent bystanders.
NS: That’s why I’m really happy about the work we did in Season 3 because we not only talk about, but we also go out and confront people who think they can get away with whatever they want online.
NS: People think they can do and say whatever they want online because of the anonymity, but we’re out there saying, no, you can’t do that. We’re going to find you and expose you, and you may not like how we do it, but we have to because you need to stop doing this.
Are you excited for Season 3 of Catfish? Will you tune in? Sound off in the comments!
Catch the Season 3 premiere of Catfish on Wednesday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.