EXCLUSIVE: Netflix has ordered eight episodes of Prank Encounters, a hidden-camera prank show executive produced and hosted by Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo. The show, which had been in the works for months, hails from Ben Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate. It’s set to launch later this year.
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.
I don’t know if this is something the 16-year-old child star came up with on his own or if it was pushed on him, but one of the many people responsible for this kid and his career should have stepped in before this horrible idea made it out of the writers’ room. The little dumbshit is already getting eaten alive over it, and I am happy to add more than a few cents of my own.
Unlike Matarazzo, who at 16 probably hasn’t seen too much of the harder side of life, I know what it’s like to be eminently qualified for any number of positions and still be out of work. I spent the last four years in Philadelphia under- or wholly unemployed. I was on food stamps. I mowed people’s lawns for money. I probably qualified for welfare, but was too proud to take it. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and Pennsylvania’s U-turn on policy, I qualified for Medicaid.
My child’s mother, God bless her, was patient and allowed me to catch up on my child support arrears, which I did, with interest. But I wound up having to sell my house -the one asset I owned- to get back on my feet. It was a horrible time.
Three years later, and laid off once again, I still get panic attacks while writing letters responding to employment announcements. And why not? Of the dozen or more I’ve sent out in the past month, I’ve received three responses, only one of them positive. The idea that someone might prank me into thinking I was being offered a job makes my blood pressure spike and my fists start clenching.
I wish I could say Netflix was just sticking this dumb kid’s face on a product adults came up with, but it looks like Matarazzo signed on to be the executive producer. What a 16-year-old knows about producing a series is anyone’s guess: in all likelihood, someone offered him and his family a pile of money and they jumped at it. I know nothing about the Matarazzos’ income before Stranger Things, but my family lived in their hometown for nearly 25 years, and I can tell you firsthand there are a lot of low-income families in that area. Maybe they’ve been down on their luck for years and can’t turn down a big payday.
What I do know is that the premise of the show is cruel. In an age of skyrocketing income inequality, in which job security and pensions are a thing of the past and the idea of saving for retirement is quickly becoming the same, the concept is entirely inappropriate and unfunny. It’s a classic case of punching down, and Netflix will ultimately transform Matarazzo from the cute little kid on the quirky sci-fi show into that rich douchebag kid that makes fun of poor people because he’s too fucking thoughtless and sheltered to know any better. Maybe they can get Donald Trump to make guest appearances to yell “you’re fired” at the victims.
If Prank Encounters goes forward, I not only hope it flops: I hope someone gets punched in the nose on camera.