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The Internet Doesn’t Like the Sound of Stranger Things Star Gaten Matarazzo’s New Show
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MTV’s Punk’d originally had a different, more fitting name—Harassment. And instead of targeting celebrities, it focused on regular people, much like other prank shows like Candid Camera. One scrapped prank from this early-days version of the show involved a couple who checked into their room at the Hard Rock Hotel in 2002 only to be greeted by “what appeared to be a dead human body covered and surrounded by blood.” Security wouldn’t allow them to leave the room, until Ashton Kutcher hopped in to let them know they’d just been harassed. The couple sued.
Prank shows have been around for a long time, and they’ve always been pretty morally murky affairs. But Netflix decided to try to reinvigorate the genre with the help of endlessly endearing Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo, and somehow they landed on the one of the worst possible premises: pranking job seekers who think they’re starting a new gig.
Netflix ordered eight episodes of the show, which is called Prank Encounters, and it’ll debut later in 2019. According to Deadline, “each episode of this terrifying and hilarious prank show takes two complete strangers who each think they’re starting their first day at a new job. It’s business as usual until their paths collide and these part-time jobs turn into full-time nightmares.”
In a work climate marked by rampant income inequality, widespread job insecurity, and ever-increasing automation, people reacted to this show almost exactly as you might expect.
None of this is the fault of 16-year-old Matarazzo, who’s also one of the show’s producers—this is exactly the sort of thing any teen might find funny. The trouble is that adults, with fully-developed frontal lobes, actually thought it was a good idea to greenlight this show, as if 2019 didn’t already feel dystopian enough.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.