Is Reality TV ethical? Part 2
By Michael Asiffo
Transcribed By Shira Ragosin
Reality shows have not only amassed incredible popularity on television but are also popular online. One such show is: To Catch a Cheater – an American weekly series on YouTube that sets up spouses, helping to put one’s partner to the ultimate test.
The show is created and directed by Luis Mercado and Sameer (Sam) Bhavnani.
In this VIBE TALKS interview by Correspondent Michael Asiffo, Luis and Sam open up about their inspiration to create To Catch a Cheater and their views regarding moral and ethical guidelines, concerning such social experiment shows.
Michael: How did this idea come about?
Luis: It came about because about two years ago, I had a roommate, who had a girlfriend, who was very flirtatious, and we used to give him a really hard time about her being into rich guys and flirting with a ton of guys, never telling other guys she had a boyfriend. One of these days we were all giving him crap about it and out loud I said it as a joke. I said: “Watch, I’m going to send some rich guy, some good looking tall rich guy to go hit on her and I bet she won't even admit she has a boyfriend, and she’ll give out her number.” He [my roommate] was arguing with me, and I said: “Alright I’m going to record it just so you can see it.” And as I said it out loud, the thought kind of came to me in that way. Then I thought to myself the funniest thing about that would be watching my roommate’s reaction because I know him. Seeing his face while he’s watching that is really what's going to make that the most entertaining thing ever. So that's how the idea came about! I called Sam I told him about it, he liked it, and like they say the rest is history…
Michael: So Sam was involved in the process much later, he wasn’t in there just yet right?
Luis: He was in there pretty much from the beginning. Once the idea came to mind I called him and let him know about it. We did our very first experiment - we did one video, Sam released it on a nothing channel, a channel that was just there, a YouTube channel, and the video now is around 12 million views.
Michael: In terms of a process for the successful interview I noticed that even emailing you guys, you have an email that spouses go to test their significant other. From then on what's the process like?
Luis: We have another guy in charge of all the social media stuff and all of the emails that come in. Basically when someone reaches out to us, number one, we go with location and right now we’re going up and down throughout California. Whenever we travel, we announce it on our social media and we let people know that To Catch a Cheater is traveling. We've been to India, Singapore, Philippines, Mexico, New York, Florida, and I think that's all within a one-year time span that we’ve done that.
Michael: One of my personal favourites, the work of arts of the show is Sam’s cameraman work, the zooming in and zooming out. Sam was that a thing you did on purpose right from the beginning of episode one?
Sam: I actually went to film school, and when a camera zooms in on someone’s face it means that it's getting more intense, I was told. The first time I ever had to record this, the girl watching her boyfriend cheating, her face was looking so serious; I felt a tendency to zoom in so people could get the feeling that she was feeling, I guess. To me it was the filmmaker inside me that was doing that but I guess everyone else took it as this guys is a shit cameraman.
Luis: Can you explain why you zoomed in on the cleavage though?
Sam: Well that happened I think the third [episode] I shot or the fourth one, and I didn't think we'd be putting them online right away. I just wanted Luis to look at it later on and the next thing I know we're putting it online.
Michael: Did you expect the show to be a success?
Luis: I don't know, I mean I think we kind of did, then we weren't sure still just like anybody else. The first episode got up to 10 million views before we even started an episode two. And then we actually decided to create a channel To Catch a Cheater a year after we started our first episode. So when we started an official channel we dropped between 6-8 videos. We were at 50 thousand subscribers and then in literally 7 days it shoot up to 100 thousand subscribers. And we started getting T.V deal offerings right away and we just thought, man this is big!
Michael: What was your favourite episode of filming?
Luis: For me I have to say there was this one we did where a guy thought he was coming out on a game show. So we looked through his application and the girlfriend, she wanted to put him to a test. So we sent him an email inviting him out to this game show because he would have thought it would be cool. So we brought him in, we had this little interview process going on with him. We had a ‘smoking hot’ interviewer. And what made the show so funny on that one was that he knew it was being recorded because it was for a game show. But we let him know we had to cut, go change lenses, go make some other adjustments, and we would be right back. And when we left, we left them alone and just recorded their secret conversation. And that one to me was funny.
Michael: Sam, to you what was your favourite episode?
Sam: We shot this one where a girl worked at Walmart and so did her boyfriend. That was my favourite because the girl, you know she had nice cleavage, so that was a lot of fun.
Michael: There are a couple episodes that are heart-breaking. One in particular, there was this woman who was married with her husband for multiple years and then he caught her cheating with a younger girl. And that kind of broke my heart. For you is there ever a moment where you guys feel bad for like a specific person seeing their significant other cheat?
Luis: I know which one you’re talking about. The two Asian couples. They were married for 5 years. So on that one, just so you know, nothing physically happened in that example that you saw. It was just what his intentions were. And to me it’s like she’s been wanting to know because it's not like this just came out the blue. She’s been having a hunch that he's doing this or that he’s cheated in the past. So this is her wanting to find out: should I keep wasting my time with this guy, or should I move on. So on a human level, I understand, I’m compassionate and I understand it hurts. But at the same time I would rather know the truth. I'd much rather know so I can decide what I want to do from there. If I want to stay with the person or move on.
Michael: That brings up another point here too, that you guys are doing something good. You guys are helping people to find out if the person they're going to potentially marry is a cheat. But there’s a moral grey area to it as well. But you guys don't really play the question of moral - you kind of leave that up to the fans. Is that something that you guys kind of said we were going to leave up to the fans as the show got popular, or was that something you said from day one, we weren't going to get into the question of morality?
"So it’s really for the audience to decide." - Luis
Luis: I don't even really think we thought about it in that way. At least on my end I didn't. I just figured we’ll do it we’ll put it out there and let the fans think what they want to think. Because everyone has their own definition. This is the whole question, every time I ask do you consider that cheating. That whole thing started with every person has a different opinion of what cheating is and isn't. Some guys don’t even want their girl dancing with another guy, they consider that cheating. And some other guys are like “Yeah, that’s fine. I’m cool with that. She can dance with other guys, she's going home with me.” And so to each his own, and there’s millions of viewers. I can't tell what everyone else is going to say, what their opinion is. But on the comment section you’ll see “Oh she cheated”, someone else will say “Oh it's not that bad”. So it’s really for the audience to decide.
Sam: With the newest episode with Magic Murray, he’s this magician and he gets the girl’s number. But the boyfriend, he didn’t seem to care much about it. But you know in some episodes, the number is given out and the guy flips his mind and he flips his wig.
Michael: There's one particular episode where the guy completely rejected the girl, he was on the beach, and the significant other still got mad so I can see your point on that one. There is another question. You guys are technically speaking, a social experiment YouTube show. There are a lot of social experiment shows, for example saying the “n-word” in the hood that kind of pushed the envelope. Now you guys don't go that far. But do you guys believe there is a line you shouldn't cross with these shows?
Sam: Is there a line we shouldn't cross? Well yeah, we don’t want to break the law or anything like that.
Luis: I think we’ve kind of crossed every line to be honest.
Michael: There are shows that go on the premise of “what would happen in this situation”, and sometimes the premise might be a little ridiculous, like we’re going to steal someone's wallet and see what happens. What advice would you have for shows that want to be popular, and push the envelope, but they might be going a little extreme? What advice would you have for them so they can find the happy medium you've found?
Sam: Gosh I don’t know if there's a right answer for that because everyone's different and certain things that I would think people shouldn't do, they do and they end up doing really well and vice versa. So advice, just trial, trial and error.
Michael: Well for me I personally like this show and I think it's a great thing you guys are doing and I think it's very entertaining as well. So where can more people go and find this YouTube channel?
Luis: So the best way to contact us is through our Facebook or Instagram. You can search To Catch a Cheater on all social media. So Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube obviously. YouTube’s our biggest platform. From there we have all our emails available so they can contact us through email or social media. I started a blog channel, a behind the scenes of To Catch a Cheater, so if you want to see some of those, you can check out some behind the scenes, how we set everything up, how we work with our accomplices, go behind the scenes, we also have that available to viewers as well.
Michael: Final question guys, when are you going to make your way to Toronto or Canada, because that is a long time coming?
Luis: So we are currently in negotiation right now, working with a T.V production company based in Canada, and we are looking to bring To Catch a Cheater out there, so all that is being worked out. We can’t give you a set time, but I think very soon!
To watch full episodes of To Catch a Cheater, check out the YouTube channel here.