Episode 31 – Catfish: The TV Show

 

This episode: Catfish, Season 1, Eps. 1-4, 7-8, 13.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Doomsday Preppers, Season 3, Eps. 1-5, 9.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month the show returns to its MTV stomping grounds for one of their most successful and popular shows of recent vintage – which is apparently responsible for launching the term ‘catfish’ into the vernacular.  We were familiar with the term, of course, but not with the show, which had a different effect on each of us.

We discuss the usual fare – concept and structure, episode highlights, authenticity and appeal – but we delve quite a bit more into our personal takes on the show, particularly in the case of JS, who enjoyed the show for what it was until Mike burst his bubble with an article he found online debunking the show’s authenticity.  We also take on some of the larger issues the show focuses on, particularly in terms of what it has to say about social media usage and ‘self-acceptance,’ with the assistance of an interesting academic article we found that analyzes and critiques the show’s messaging.

Show Notes and Links

1:26 / Mike outs himself as the victim of a celebrity podcast catfishing scheme

2:06 / Introducing this month’s show

3:17 / The concept and structure of this show (inspired by a documentary of the same name)

6:37 / Our impressions of the two hosts, Nev and Max

8:07 / Dual roles of hosts – investigation and therapy/counseling

9:23 / The show’s tone ran contrary to JS’s expectations, particularly for an MTV reality show (Our episode on My Super Sweet 16)

11:24 / A coda on some of Nev’s personal controversies – MeToo accusations and somewhat racist tweeting (Maybe he should run for President!)

12:42 / The order in which each of us watched the episodes and how it affected our viewing

13:43 / Episode 1 – Sunny and Jamison (Chelsea)

14:43 / Episode 3 – Kim and Matt

15:01 / Episode 7 – Joe and Kari Ann (Rose) – Watch this one!

16:58 / Episode 2 – Trina and Scorpio (Lee) and Episode 8 – Tyler and Amanda (Aaron)

17:58 / Episode 4 – Jasmine and Mike (Mhissy)

18:46 / Transitioning to the question of authenticity

21:30 / Our initial impressions of the authenticity and how the article affected our reading of the show (the article we mention and discuss – Is Catfish Catfishing America?)

23:15 / Talking about how much we bought the narrative in Episode 7 (Mike mentions The Truman Show)

24:12 / Mike talks about the motivational narrative for Episode 7 (the Instagram post from Rose; Mike mentions the movie Rashomon)

26:28 / How genuine are these investigations by Nev and Max? (Kari Ann Peniche’s Wikipedia article)

28:18 / The one moment of authenticity – the catfishee’s reaction to meeting the catfisher – made us feel uncomfortable (Our Maury episode)

31:15 / Finding out how the show was actually constructed undermined its ethical justification, Mike almost would have preferred it embrace the seamy side (He mentions the show Cheaters)

32:58 / How much did the inauthenticity sour us on the show?  Could it have been done another way?

34:22 / What JS wanted from the narrative and how finding out the truth made him think it was all done on the catfisher’s terms

35:32 / Mike pushes back a little – thinks it would be easier for the catfisher to not go on TV, thinks the show is done more on the producer’s terms

36:53 / The thing that irritated us most about the show’s ethics was the false front it put up of ‘helping’ people

37:10 / Segueing into the article for this month: Catching a Catfish: Constructing the ‘good’ social media user in reality television, Michael Lovelock, Television & New Media, Vol. 18, Issue 3, March 2017

38:05 / The broad thesis of the article and overview of its main themes

38:54 / What Mike thought was most interesting in the article

40:24 / JS also found the emphasis on self-acceptance as substitute for traditional markers of success interesting

42:04 / Mike liked the analysis of catfishing as being on the continuum of online activity and not apart from it

43:52 / Coming back to the usage of hand-held cameras as marker of authenticity (We mention Bridezillas, Vanderpump Rules, and Dirty Jobs as other examples of this kind of technique)

46:50 / What did we think of the article writer’s contention that reality TV narratives are ideal for constructing ‘good’ social media behavior?  (JS mentions the online forum Reddit; Mike mentions Foucault again and our Paris Hilton BFF Dubai episode)

50:24 / Ending on where the appeal of the show lies

52:38 / What specifically in the narrative captured JS’s interest before finding out about the inauthenticity?

54:24 / Mike didn’t enjoy it as much, but that also insulated him from being crestfallen when he discovered the article

55:40 / Mike thinks part of the appeal of this show is due to the inherent uncertainty of online relationships and our fears surrounding them

56:30 / Introducing the show for our next episode (Mike mentions the caravan aka the “terror-van” – remember that? He also confused the presidential and Congressional inauguration dates – you don’t have to email him a correction.)

58:25 / Mike’s half-hearted holiday well-wishes and our plan for the rest of the season

58:54 / Our usual stuff: contact us, rate and review us, and subscribe (or tell your friends to subscribe!)

 

Episode 30 – My Super Sweet 16

 

This episode: My Super Sweet 16: Season 1, Eps. 1, 3, 5-6, Season 5, Eps. 1, 7, 9, and Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 5-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Catfish, Season 1, Eps. 1-4, 7-8, 13.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month JS is taking a breather, but we’re excited to have our returning guest, Dave, on the podcast to discuss the all-time ‘classic’ MTV show My Super Sweet 16.

We start with our own reminiscences of our unglamorous 16th birthdays before tackling the usual topics of concept and structure – of what ended up being two different shows with the same name, as we also viewed the 2017 reboot.  Then we discuss the show’s worldview and debate whether it is meant to condemn class inequities in America or whether it is a comfortable salve for viewers who would like to believe that they are immune to the behavior displayed on the show because they have superior ‘values’ imparted to them.  We also talk about how the ever-present categories of race and gender play a part in the stereotypes of class being disseminated by this program and wonder just how authentic the narrative of this show is in light of an interview and article we found – is it played fairly straight or going into scripted territory?

Our final through line is an ongoing comparison and contrast between the positive vibes and group hugs of the reboot and the temper tantrums and exclusive guest lists of the original – we speculate as to why MTV decided to change up their successful formula and decide which version of the show we personally prefer.

Show Notes and Links

1:28 / Your hosts’ memories of their ‘Super Sweet 16’

2:14 / Does Dave have any experience with ‘Sweet 16’ culture?

3:48 / The spread of episodes we watched and why we picked them

6:57 / The concept and structure of the show

9:10 / Many segments tended to reoccur, particularly as the formula became more established

15:11 / Hitting the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) for Ava and Audrey – our most stereotypical celebrants

18:44 / Discussing the role of the parents in the show

20:59 / The formulaic nature of the show and how the first episode of Season 1 hadn’t quite established it yet

22:10 / Comparing the original to the reboot – microcelebrities and positive vibes

25:27 / Returning to the worldview of the original run – is it celebrating or condemning wealth?

27:13 / Did the original series give its participants the ‘Villain Edit’?

30:08 / This show is part of a larger cultural narrative around gender and wealth (Dave mentions the movie Mean Girls)

31:15 / The role of diversity in the show – is it progressive or does it give a false impression of class in America?

34:11 / How race and gender plays into the show’s worldview and popular reception – focuses on safe critique of ‘values’ and ‘spoiled teens’ as opposed to structural conditions

35:24 / Some narratives in the show run counter to the ‘lax parenting’ critique

37:02 / The show both stokes envy and resentment of the upper class – encourages viewers to think they would be ‘better’ in the same situation rather than condemning the situation itself

37:45 / Contrasting the original worldview to that of the reboot (the Guardian article Mike mentioned is here; our episodes on The Fashion Hero and America’s Most Smartest Model)

39:52 / How compelling was the reboot compared to the original? (More compelling participants and narratives, but also lacked some dramatic tension and the rubbernecking entertainment value.)

44:07 / The reboot felt more authentic and less manufactured in its narrative

45:58 / Mike apologizes for his second ‘academic article’ fail

47:00 / Analyzing the original’s authenticity (or possibly lack thereof) – the Babe.net interview is here and the Houston Chronicle newspaper article is here

48:31 / Our previous experiences with the show and initial impression of its authenticity (Our TOWIE episode)

50:58 / Dave was struck by the lack of diegetic dialogue and fast cuts from one segment to another

52:06 / Mike was a little surprised by the claimed extent of scriptedness, etc; expected it to be more on the Survivor end of the spectrum than the Bridezillas end

53:07 / Is there a ‘damage control’ aspect to the accusations of fakery?

58:05 / Final conclusion – there is some inauthenticity, but not full-on scripting

58:45 / Discussing the appeal of the original show

59:27 / Mike notes that this show stopped running when the recession hit in 2008

1:00:36 / What is the appeal of the reboot and why did they change the formula?

1:01:35 / Mike thinks this is a conscious attempt by MTV to cater to the worldview of a younger, diverse, culturally liberal audience

1:04:00 / Which version did we prefer? (We come down of the side of evil over niceness – in true reality TV fashion)

1:07:03 / Ending with our favorite motifs – the exhausted boredom of the adults and mundane nature of it all

1:09:19 / Reminding our listeners about the next show Mike is covering with JS – continuing the MTV train with Catfish: The TV Show

1:10:05 / The usual spiel: contact us, rate/review, subscribe to us (or at least tell your friends!)

 

Episode 14 – Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude

 

This week’s discussion: Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, Season 1, Eps. 1-12, 39-40. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Next week’s discussion: Toddlers and Tiaras, Season 7, Eps. 1-5. Watch it on Hulu.

Our Listener’s Choice poll results are in and we listened to the masses (all two of them) who decided they wanted us to watch the Jersey Shore spin-off Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, a webseries that originally appeared over the go90 streaming service.

We begin by discussing the show’s interesting ‘YouTube’ style form factor and whether it worked for us.  Then we segue into the show’s relationship with its famous progenitor and how the personas of the two hosts has evolved, linking that evolution to broader themes of aging and maturity.  We also talk about the show’s interesting blend of traditional domesticity with an MTV ‘edge’ as well as its relationship to its target demographic of ‘millennial moms’ and how its themes of parenthood and family life connected with us.  Additionally, we discuss issues of social class and praise the show’s minimalist production and apparent unvarnished nature, linking it to earlier discussions of the appeal of authenticity in reality television.

Show Notes and Links

1:30 / Introducing this week’s show

2:46 / Our experiences with Jersey Shore

4:20 / Talking about the history behind the show (Mike mentions the MTV Snooki and JWoww and go90)

6:32 / The concept and different episode types

8:52 / Talking about the show’s form factor

10:47 / Mike compares show to the ‘YouTuber’ phenomenon

11:46 / Discussing the minimalistic production (Article about the webseries that Mike mentioned)

13:49 / Returning to the form factor (Our Monica the Medium episode is here)

15:37 / Segueing to the target demographic for the show (Awestruck Entertainment; the JWoww and Roger webseries)

17:22 / Talking about the show’s aesthetic (‘not a mothering show for your mother’)

18:52 / Our view of the hosts and their evolution since Jersey Shore

21:55 / Discussing whether you should curse in front of your kids

23:01 / Coming back to the hosts and how they’ve changed since Jersey Shore

24:46 / This show’s relation to the previous one; acknowledgement mixed with distance

25:45 / Mike tries to explain Jersey Shore’s relationship to other reality shows to JS (We mention TOWIE and The Real World; Snooki’s arrest)

27:45 / How this show is indicative of shifting depictions of millennials as they age and settle down

29:02 / Why Mike thinks the perennial complaint of ‘kids these days’ is misguided

30:15 / Show also chronicles the cultural shifts around parenting that have occurred as millennials have become parents

30:44 / The show was stronger because they didn’t try to rehash Jersey Shore and showed the maturity and change of the hosts

32:36 / Briefly touching on the affluent lifestyle depicted in the show

33:35 / Does this show connect with fathers as well as mothers?

35:45 / Discussing the show as a ‘feminine’ space and how its views on gender roles and domesticity are actually surprisingly traditional

37:50 / The ‘non-traditional’ nature of the hosts made the show interesting

38:28 / Mike appreciated the depiction of family life, which managed to be a nice portrait that didn’t feel like a Hallmark card

39:12 / Segueing into the authentic nature of the show (We mention the ‘Facebook wall phenomenon’)

41:03 / Mike’s nostalgia for the characters, returns to idea of reality TV as ‘hanging out’ (our Keys episode is here, NYT profile of Snooki during her Jersey Shore days)

41:57 / JS appreciated the lack of product placement and their honesty in their product reviews

43:07 / Returning to the topic of social class and its relation to the show’s target demographic

46:17 / Closing with discussion of the appealing nature of the show’s authenticity

49:01 / The fact that this wasn’t done by a huge MTV production crew made the show feel more authentic and less produced

50:25 / Introducing the next show

52:08 / Announcements: contact us, rate and review us, and subscribe (Also, we have a Facebook page that Mike forgot to mention)

 

Episode 11 – Monica the Medium

 

This week’s discussion: Monica the Medium, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Keys to the VIP, Season 2, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

This week your intrepid hosts descend into the Ninth Circle of Reality TV Hell for Season One of the ‘millennial’ oriented ‘Freeform’ network’s ‘medium’ show (so many airquotes): Monica the Medium.  After venting their suffering via overwrought similes and mocking skits, Mike and JS discuss the show’s hybrid concept, production values, and cast of characters while asking themselves the question that is always foremost on their minds – Doesn’t anybody realize that there is a camera crew following these people all over the place?

They then discuss millennial stereotypes and the branding strategies of the network this show aired on as well as delving into the various techniques of so-called ‘psychics’ and ‘mediums.’  Finally, they finish on the appeal of medium shows and this particular show’s outlier emphasis on wholesome depictions and the promotion of a narrative of emotional uplift.

Show Notes and Links

1:05 / We commiserate about our love for this show (our TOWIE episode is here)

2:48 / Introducing the show

3:28 / Mike crafted an overwrought simile to describe the experience of watching this show (References here, here, and here)

4:16 / The concept of the show

6:10 / 42 Minutes of Reality Masterpiece Theater

10:32 / These ‘spontaneous’ readings happen everywhere

11:02 / Talking about the ‘eerie’ FX

12:00 / The cast of characters

12:50 / Monica’s best friend, Krista

14:23 / How authentic are these conflicts?

15:27 / Ann and the role of the ‘skeptic’

17:08 / Discussing the different roles of Monica’s parents

18:27 / Why doesn’t anyone seem to notice the cameras?

19:27 / A questionable blind date

20:44 / Some producer magic at the ‘necktie party’

21:38 / Does her mediumship really scare off the guys?

22:34 / Even Monica’s friends get in on the camera obliviousness

23:19 / Monica’s reading in the clothing store

24:14 / Did Monica actually need a job or was she doing this for the show?

25:06 / Two pillars of the show: readings and college life

26:05 / The readings are so repetitive and make the show a chore to watch

26:43 / Mike’s strategies for making it through

27:37 / The college life aspects were a little bit more bearable (and more ethical)

29:00 / The strongest segments of the show

30:21 / Discussing the network and its target demographic

30:52 / The Wikipedia page for the network where Mike got the quotes

32:45 / JS goes on a rant about inane marketing speak

33:45 / The ‘wholesome’ nature of the show’s depiction of college life

35:50 / Are millennial stereotypes gendered?  (The Emoji Movie, the AFLAC ad that Mike mentioned)

37:30 / The avocado toast reference is explained here

38:02 / Show plays on both the extraordinary and the familiar (It’s ‘relatable’)

40:42 / The unsung hero of this show

42:30 / Transitioning from college life to the medium aspect

43:33 / We thought readings were cold, but arranged in advance

46:15 / The two different types of readings

47:17 / The idea of ‘cold reading

48:55 / Pondering what it would really be like if this stuff was real (Where Mike stole his Jimmy Hoffa thing from)

50:10 / Motivated reasoning (Mike couldn’t find the dark room study he referenced, but here is a report of a similar study about fake séances and table levitation)

52:40 / ‘Shotgunning’ and other common cold reading techniques

55:05 / Discussing ‘hot reading’ (although we didn’t use the term) – JS mentions John Edward and televangelist Peter Popoff (aka the earpiece guy whose name we couldn’t remember)

56:43 / Talking about the role of TV editing and how it emphasizes the ‘hits’ of cold reading while culling out the ‘misses’

58:47 / The caveats of Monica’s medium mentor aka ‘You don’t want to be the next Sylvia Browne

59:53 / Transitioning to the appeal of this show and of mediums in general

1:01:24 / Mike discusses the tragic stories of many of the clients and his conflicted feelings

1:02:06 / The difficulties of processing sudden and/or premature death

1:03:08 / Comparing to religion – a desire for rationality and order (‘People aren’t suffering for no reason’)

1:04:32 / Mike talks about the role of emotion in belief (Mike mentions the ontological argument for God)

1:05:27 / The quote is here (second one down)

1:06:26 / The ethics of mediumship (or lack thereof)

1:09:10 / Discussing Monica’s motives and our take on her – delusional or duplicitous?

1:10:22 / Talking about the hybrid format of the show

1:11:30 / How much did the particularity of the college milieu contribute to the show’s success (and ultimate failure)?

1:13:00 / The show’s extreme emphasis on uplift was interesting and distinct for reality TV (although we didn’t like it)

1:14:50 / Is there a dichotomy in reality TV between uplift and humiliation?

1:15:36 / Introducing the next episode

1:17:12 / Last call for our Jersey Shore spin-off Facebook poll (Also, do us a solid and like the page so that Mike can feel better about himself)

1:18:17 / You can contact us, rate us, or subscribe