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Grace Dent on TV: Reeled in by Catfish, the show that’s created a fresh dictionary definition of deceit


Despite my obsession with Game of Thrones and Lucy Worsley’s The First Georgians right now, I am still televisually smitten with MTV’s Catfish. The show that exposes online love fraudsters. The throwaway youth TV show that one’s mind just cannot throw away. Instead, one sits post- episode genuinely saddened that our human need to love and be loved is so destructive. Or that  the earth’s supply of gullible optimists may well be infinite.

Oh, Catfish, I just can’t quit you. This is youth TV so successful that it has created a fresh dictionary definition of deceit. It’s the moment when Nev and Max, the detective duo, get their subject, typically from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to  admit her “boyfriend” has never, not once in 20 months, turned on video chat to prove his  existence. There will never be a day I won’t sweep aside all work and watch the next 45 minutes.

Craig, pronounced “Cragg”, in Pittsburgh, PA, is in love with Zoe, pronounced “Zow”, in Shelby, North Carolina. Zoe helped him through the death of his father. She calls him every day and tells him she’s in love. Zoe doesn’t exist. She is hewn from stolen Facebook photos, given breath and blood by barely concealed fibs and double-bluffs and lives on in Craig’s heart due to the genuine malice of one of America’s worst teenagers, Cassandra. Catfish isn’t about technology. It’s largely about love. Pre-social media, we were all just as dumb for love.

Never try to tell me that today’s teenagers are bone idle. Their hobbies are industrious, inventive, all-consuming. I can barely service one whole life functionally – most Catfishers have two or three. They jump between mobile phones and web browsers, conducting public conversations with their selfs – online chats to lay seeds of verity that they exist. And there’s you, too exhausted to go online and pay the gas bill.

Another fantastic youth show People Just Do Nothing appears not to be scheduled to play on TV screens at all. BBC3, in case you didn’t hear the hubbub, is moving to iPlayer. You can also download the show to watch on a big screen if you’re that sort of traditionalist. Gosh, I hope people bother to find People Just Do Nothing as it’s one of the greatest comedies the BBC has produced for a while.

People Just Do Nothing is The Office – and I mean this genuinely; it has the heart, depth and devilish details of the early Gervais creation –meets the deadpan “rockumentary” style of  Spinal Tap, but set in a drum’n’bass pirate radio station, Kurupt FM 108, in Brentford. Throw your Kurupt Ks in the air, make some noise. But do it quietly as Grindah’s girlfriend Miche and her kid are next door.

It was proper romantic how Miche met Grindah. He shouted at her out of a van. Grindah and his best mate Beats are, frankly, a bit too old to be playing records in a back room cloaked in a thick fug of cannabis smoke but this is exactly the point. Wonderfully, all the actors involved in People Just Do Nothing have a modicum of rap or DJ talent. It’s that modicum of ability defiantly being forged into an entire “career” that is so great. It’s deeply daft, but also a lovely satire on British extended adolescence. I’ve watched episode one – the one where they try to soundproof the Kurupt FM  studio with egg boxes – on numerous occasions, looking for evidence of any of the cast corpsing when Grindah suddenly hits them with some  freestyle nonsense.

In case one is worried that Youth TV might be getting a little too cerebrally stimulating, MTV is currently running a wonderfully dim show called Ex on the Beach. In this show, young women who didn’t make the Take Me Out audition and young men with spray tans and Chinese dragon sleeve tattoos are sent on a tropical beach holiday. It’s non-stop boozing, bonking, building human pyramids etc suspended only by a ghoulish motorboat occasionally pulling up on the beach and delivering an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. Obviously then, all hell is let loose.

“I’m not gonna let him spoil my tiiiiime here!” females tend to shout, “Or spoil my tiiiime  with Gazz, cos I love Gazz, who I only met  two days ago but I totally love him, and what we have is special and Damo is an ex for a reason so I won’t let him stir things up!” Meanwhile, the ex struts around pulling a variety of body-building poses and territorially pissing – figuratively, at least –  around her feet. Obviously they’re all so vain and highly strung that they can’t help but  be incapacitated by jealousy and anger. The  clever thing for the ex to do would be to get off the boat, get a drink and enjoy a free holiday courtesy of MTV, occasionally giving his terrible  ex’s new quarry a cheery “good luck mate” thumbs-up.

The gorgeous screaming kids on Ex on the Beach make being skint, non-pretty, slightly  malnourished-looking and trapped on a Brentford estate with a boyfriend who runs a pirate radio station seem like a preferable way to spend one’s salad days. People Just Do Nothing. They really really do.