It's 2019 and we seem to be intent on digging ourselves even deeper into an apocalyptic hole. Between game shows that want to help pay off your student debt and a veritable clown car full of Democratic candidates for president, the real world is looking more and more like the cartoonish, post-apocalyptic universe of The Hunger Games or other similarly bleak YA book series.
So it wasn't really a surprise, just a disappointment, when Netflix announced that there would be a new prank show hosted by a child, Gaten Matarazzo of Stranger Things, where he fools people who think they're at the first day of a new part-time job. I guess joke's on them, they're still unemployed?
Prank Encounters will have eight episodes of Gaten Matarazzo cheerfully dunking on people just looking for an honest day's work. Seems more than a bit tone-deaf in this current climate where, sure, maybe the unemployment rate is down, but that's because people are working two or three part-time, low-wage jobs just to make ends meet.
As Kelly Wallace says, this is "a prank show, but for sociopaths." Nearly the entirety of the internet immediately expressed that this show seems like the worst idea they'd seen since the last bad idea prank show.
Prank shows are pretty cruel and awful in the first place. Unless Prank Encounters end with each target being rewarded with a full-time, salaried job and a giant check for their troubles, this just seems like the worst possible show. Even then, you could just give people jobs without scaring the bajeezus out of them first!
It's just the tunafish icing on this gross, sour cake, too, that the prank show will be hosted by a little kid who's richer than you or I will ever be. I think I speak for everyone when I emphatically say, "No one wants this."
Truly, this show eschews any understanding of the socioeconomic climate today. Too many people are struggling to make a living wage while others at the top are spending their time coming up with shows to exploit and laugh at those people. We live in the Upside Down. This is the Bad Place. I know I'm mixing up shows about bad places, but I don't even care anymore.
Even fellow former child star Mara Wilson (Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire) offered to sit down with Gaten and talk about why this may not be the best idea. Listen, he's 16 years old. You can argue that he should know better, but he's a child actor. He's probably sheltered from a lot of, if not all of life's real issues.
The adults in his life should have pointed out how misguided the entire concept of this show is. His agent should have said, "Heck no." His parents should have refused. Honestly, Netflix shouldn't have ever let the show concept develop to the point where they were looking for a host. This is an all-around failure. Unless it's actually somehow the opposite of what it's being marketed as, Prank Encounters seems just plain cruel.
Speaking of cruel...
The only reason an idea like that is funny is because it's so mean it's unthinkable. No one would ever actually stoop so low as to tell a person coming out of anesthesia that they've been asleep for 30 years, just like no one should trick a person into thinking they have a new job when they don't.
Matt Oswalt's tweet illustrates just how insane the idea for this show is. Today, it's "Gaten Matarazzo tortures people who want to work for a living" and tomorrow it's "Ziggy from Big Little Lies drops ten people on an island and lets them fight to the death until only one remains." Mere steps away, folks.
As an antidote to this craziness, people on Twitter started sharing their own ideas for prank shows, and honestly, I would watch the crap out of these.
Heck yeah! Put it on MTV, call it, You're a Dick!, it will run for 20 years and be the most popular show in the channel's history. The success of this show would lead to other spin-offs too. Disgusting YouTube comments, disparaging Facebook messages... they should all get sent to the perpetrators' mothers, who then confront them on television. That's golden TV right there.
Also on board for this one! It's Robin Hood for the current apocalypse. But you know what would be even better? If we didn't have to trick rich people into contributing to social services! If we didn't have to publicly shame men for their gross behavior. If we didn't have to expend energy better reserved for, I don't know, applying for jobs, to explain to studios why a show concept is beyond inappropriate, completely insulting, and spectacularly misguided.
That would be way better.
Update: A Netflix spokesperson reached out with this statement about Prank Encounters: "The pranks in Prank Encounters are spooky, supernatural, and over the top, and everyone had a great time. All participants came in with the expectation this was a one-day, hourly gig and everyone got paid for their time."