The Hollywood Reporter Unveils 2013 Reality Heat List
This story first appeared in the April 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
You know you've impacted the common vernacular when your reality-show title becomes its own verb. For Nev Schulman, 28, that moment came in January when Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o revealed he'd been lured into an online relationship with a woman who was not the person she purported to be -- nor even female.
Te'o had been "catfished," as Schulman had been a few years earlier when a 40-ish housewife named Angela, claiming to be a budding singer named Megan, turned into his obsession -- or, as he describes it, his "addiction to the soap opera."
Schulman's experience became the premise for his Sundance-lauded documentary and hit MTV docuseries, whose inaugural season consistently drew more than 2 million viewers. "It's topical, timely and the ultimate mystery that keeps you glued until the last minute," says Tom Forman, CEO of RelativityREAL, which acquired Catfish the movie and saw its TV potential. "We live in a weird time. … These technologies have fundamentally changed human relationships."
And what do all these love-starved people have in common? "The deceivers are struggling with issues and choose to create an online identity as an escape," says Schulman. "On the show, I'm basically giving people the opportunity to talk and think about themselves and maybe get a little bit of perspective about the situation, much like a therapist," he says. "Usually, they're happy to come clean in the end."