If you saw 2010’s hit documentary “Catfish,” you know Yaniv “Nev” Schulman as the 24-year-old New York photographer who formed a long-distance, technology-driven relationship with a luscious but evasive Michigan woman, then discovered that his online dream girl was actually a troubled middle-aged mom. In the wake of the film — which concludes with Schulman making peace with his deceiver — Schulman heard from an astounding cross section of people worried that their own online lovers aren’t really who they seem.
The result is MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show” — premiering Monday, Nov. 12 — in which Schulman investigates the suspect individuals and accompanies their hopeful paramours on the couples’ first face-to-face encounters, with varying results. In keeping with the redemptive spirit of the film, Schulman and fellow filmmaker Max Joseph then delve into the psyches of their subjects to tap into what makes us so willing to emotionally invest in folks we know only in cyberspace. “What ends up happening,” he tells Zap2it, “is we find these two people who, either on the same side or opposite sides of an issue, have been working at understanding themselves better or hiding from themselves or afraid to deal with something. And the issues that we’ve uncovered are an incredible cross sample of issues that young people are dealing with right now. Things like self-esteem, weight and obesity, people who are uncertain of or afraid of accepting their sexuality.”
Schulman, who credits a supportive network of friends and family with getting him through the depression that followed his “Catfish” experience, is setting up an online discussion forum to help connect viewers who see themselves in the show’s participants.
“The success of the film had, in my opinion, more to do with the third act than anything else,” he says. “Once we sit these people down and get them out from behind their online avatars, the outpouring that they so desperately need — this release, this face-to-face human contact with someone who really wants to listen and can give them the confidence to be themselves — it really makes for amazing television. But more than just television, for me it makes a fulfilling life experience.”