Since the news dropped that a brand-new UK edition of Catfish: The TV Show was on its way to our screens, the internet has been making its opinions known. Many have been questioning whether the series can live up to its US counterpart while others are asking how a tech-based TV show that gained major notoriety in the 2010s can possibly work in this new internet-savvy decade? After all, the show’s entire premise depends on people’s naivety when it comes to technology which, after nearly 10 years, must surely have improved, right?
It seems almost impossible that in today's society, people are still trusting romantic interests who 'can't' video call, not least because the popularity of the US show laid bare every catfish trick in the box. Nevertheless, Catfish UK, presented by Julie Adenuga and Oobah Butler, is revamping the show for British audiences, keeping pretty close to the concept developed by Catfish creator Nev Shulman back in 2012. Armed with a trusty hand camera to film the investigation, vlog-style (alongside an actual film crew), the duo scour their email inbox to find people in need of their help and investigative skills.
It’s there they find a 37-year-old mum of two named Emma, who has supposedly been speaking to a navy officer called Harlin for the last year. Mirroring the US show, the team start unpicking the first set of red flags in Emma's relationship, all of which are similar to the calling cards we're used to – from missing social media accounts to Harlin's photo appearing on various dating profiles. In 2012 you would detect a cookie-cutter, open-and-shut case of catfishing. However, there's one crucial difference this time around: Emma has received a FaceTime call from Harlin.
The occurrence of a video call between partners indicates that the UK show is diving into unknown territory. After years of viewers rolling their eyes at the TV every time someone believed their webcam was broken, the fact that Emma has spoken on video to the guy claiming to be Harlin feels eerie to say the least. While the catfishes of the original series might have been bored teenagers with chaos on their minds, the modern-day UK catfishees seem much more likely to be taken advantage of emotionally, physically and oftentimes financially.
Emma's story hits hard given the trajectory of the last 12 months. Since the start of the pandemic, our reliance on technology has reached an all-time high, with most of us communicating via video chat, call or text every single day. For many, this has filtered into our dating lives, as singletons pivot to dating apps and phone communication in lieu of real-life meet-ups in bars and clubs. In a year when many people have reached for their phone to feel connected, it feels that much sadder to see someone with good intentions end up duped by someone who just doesn't care.
Over the years the US show has been frequently memed and its gullible participants mocked but the UK show takes care to prove that falling victim to catfishing isn’t down to lack of intelligence. The evolving technology that allows scam artists to thrive on the internet is terrifyingly clever, making it easy for professionals to target unsuspecting parties on dating apps and social media sites.
If you were never a fan of Catfish: The TV Show, the UK edition of the docu-reality series isn't suddenly going to convert you. Though the new show has certainly raised the stakes, it still relies on the tried-and-tested 'shock value' format which made it famous, meaning it may feel tired to some. However, for those who binged the US show, the new series feels like a chilling walk down memory lane, injecting new charismatic hosts, recognisable locations and updated tech into the mix.
Nearly a decade after the US show started, Catfish UK is here to show how much more dangerous the internet has grown to be. In a society where so many people are searching for love online, catfishes prey on people’s tendency to overlook warning signs in the hope of achieving their happily ever after. For those out there who are still searching for their soulmate, safeguarding has never been more important.
Catfish UK premieres on 21st April on MTV UK, also available on Now TV