Netflix defends new prank show that targets jobseekers after swift backlash

Gaten Matarazzo arrives at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Netflix has jumped to the defence of a new prank show fronted by Stranger Things child star Gaten Matarazzo after social media users branded its concept “disgusting”.

The streamer promises “everyone had a great time” making the already controversial programme.

Netflix announced Prank Encounters last week, which will run for eight episodes with the 16-year-old Matarazzo acting as host and executive producer.

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Each show will feature two strangers who believe they are starting the first day of a part-time job, until everything starts to go wrong.

In a press release announcing the show, Netflix described it as “terrifying and hilarious”.

Social media users, however, were quick to criticise the show for its apparent exploitation of people looking for work in a fragile economy.

Gaten Matarazzo plays Dustin in Netflix's sci-fi drama 'Stranger Things'. (Credit: Netflix)

The show was branded “cruel” and “disgusting”, with some fans of Matarazzo urging the Stranger Things star to step away from the project.

In a statement issued to Metro, Netflix said: “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.”

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The series is set to premiere on Netflix later this year, marking Matarazzo’s first collaboration with the service outside of Stranger Things.

Matarazzo began his career on the Broadway stage with roles in Les Misérables and Priscilla Queen of the Desert before landing the part of Dustin in one of Netflix’s flagship original shows.

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He was born with the birth defect cleidocranial dysplasia and wears dentures as a result.

The defect is shared with his Stranger Things character and Matarazzo has said he hopes his fame will help to raise awareness of the condition.

He will return to the role of Dustin for the third season of Stranger Things on 4 July.