Imagine you ghosted someone you were in a short term relationship with for a reason that was too embarrassing to explain at the time. Let's say you snuck into their place of work to surprise them, and you overheard them making rude, invasive sex jokes about you. Your initial silent treatment turned into a full-on ghosting because you never found the words to react. And now, almost a year later, MTV calls you out of the blue insisting that you must come to talk it out with that person in a recording studio for a major cable network—and to clear your name from being labeled a "ghoster" in the midst of our ghosting epidemic. Most people's reactions would probably be to hang up on that call. But on MTV's Ghosted, no one behaves rationally, and that exact plotline leads to a wildly entertaining, emotionally raw confrontation in the series' second episode.
Ghosted is MTV's new reality show, where two hip young hosts—former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay and musician Travis Mills—use their mediocre social media stalking abilities to help an extremely desperate person find out why they've been ghosted. Some critics and social media users have accused the show of normalizing or even glorifying stalking, with only the sub-par excuse that, well, ghosting is wrong. And the invasive show does certainly create entertainment out of vulnerable people's heartbreak. But Ghosted is impossible to turn off, simply because of the shocking, hilariously awkward lengths hosts go to for answers.
It requires mental gymnastics to imagine putting yourself in either the ghoster or ghostee's shoes on this show. Starting with the person who has been ghosted, before even getting to the question of why they're using MTV to get out of the silent treatment, let's take a step back to the basics of what they sign up for. It's honestly truly mind-boggling to think that there are people out there who would let two TV hosts of a show they've never seen contact anyone they please to track down their ghoster. And the hosts don't only contact the person who has gone silent on their client's behalf (despite the fact that the ghostee is usually blocked from calling their ghoster themselves); they also contact people like the ghoster's friends, the new person the ghoster might be dating now, and the ghostee's exes. Then, the person who's been ghosted receives updates about the "investigation"—which could be anything from "your ex is dating someone else now" to "your best friend told us they never want to see you again"—on camera! (If you've ever gotten an unwanted update about an ex in front of people you don't know well, you probably get why the thought of this can turn insides numb.) And then, of course, the person who's been ghosted has to somehow get some genuine answers under the bright lights and shroud of awkwardness that comes with sic-ing some hipster MTV producers on their ghoster's ass.
But the ghoster's participation in the show is somehow just as mind-boggling, if not more. As social media users have been joking since the show came out, if someone tracks you down using a camera crew to ask why they've been ghosted, the easiest response would be to say "because of shit like this." When ghosters are initially contacted on the show, at least in the first two episodes, their responses aren't far off from that: they're pretty flustered and unwilling to engage. Yet as the hosts press on to dig up any dirt that can lure them in while continuing their moral pleas, the ghosters have a change of heart. (Why they choose to give their explanation on the show instead of reaching back out privately remains unclear.) But even more baffling is that they sometimes come on the show to spill tea that makes them look terrible, like in the premiere episode, when a queer man named Delmond reveals he ghosted his close friend Julia partly because he started sleeping with her ex-boyfriend.
Moving past the ghoster and ghostee's reasons for being on the show, though, the absurdly dramatic way MTV goes about producing the series is really what gives it a laugh-out-loud, addictive quality. When bringing two people together for a sensitive, on-camera heart-to-heart, a chill producer might choose to lessen the awkwardness by making the setting a quaint park bench or a comfortable living room couch. But we're not coming to Ghosted for heartwarming moments—we're coming to jump from our seats at every twist and turn of this very serious, very suspenseful glorified social media stalking rabbit hole. For peak effect, all confrontations on Ghosted happen in a dark, bare studio with the two sitting across from each other on stiff plastic chairs while the hosts "give them privacy" by directing their conversation from the other side of a black curtain. And to give it even more of an investigation-room feeling, they flash a black-and-white cue card reading "The Confrontation" beforehand, amid perfectly timed, cliffhanger commercial breaks pulled straight from the aesthetic of Maury. The hosts even add to the drama by tearing up with the couple in one-on-one processing breaks before bringing them back together to dramatically reveal whether they've decided to make up or mutually ghost.
Ghosted is the upgraded Maury for self-righteous millennials who've convinced themselves that dropping loved ones with no explanation is self-care. We might be going to hell for liking it so much. But hey, everybody needs a little drama, camp, and snooping into other people's problems from time to time.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.