Three eligible bachelors. 32 women. What else do you need for a reality dating show? Leave it to producer and radio/television personality Ryan Seacrest (and his producing partner Andrew Glassman) to find a new twist and add the bachelors' mothers to the formula. The end product is "Momma's Boys," which premieres tonight on NBC. Seacrest and Glassman talked about the often heated moments that stopped filming at times, how bigotry reared its ugly head and why Seacrest feels a reality show focusing on his life might not be what America wants.
Seacrest offered up the format of "Momma's Boys" by saying "the idea was to put a group of great girls [and] a group of bad girls together, see them mesh with each other, and see them compete for the heart and the love of these guys. Throw mom into the mix to sort of sift through them and see what happens. And, the honest truth, we didn't know how this series was going to go. I remember Andrew and I sitting in meetings talking about, in theory, the concept for this show. But we kind of had different ways that it might go in our minds. But it went a different direction."
That different direction didn't come from the young women or the three bachelors, however. "The mothers," Seacrest explained, "who for the most part are sweet and loving of their sons, they had good intentions and then that clearly shifted once you got a chance to see them in this environment together. But, you know, these are moms that are clearly obsessed with control when it comes to their sons' lives and women certainly play a major part in that process for them. And so they did not hide their feelings once they got in the middle of all these girls."
Describing two of the three mothers as "loving, very traditional moms [and] a little bit overly involved in their sons' lives," Glassman then added that the "third mom is an equal opportunity offender." Mrs. B, Glassman continued, "comes in with a severe attitude and then you watch as a younger generation, including her own son, by the way, gives her [a] comeuppance over those views over and over and over again."
In the opening episode, for example, the female contestants are shown the home video of Mrs. B describing the kind of girl that is right for her son. She quickly excludes any race other than white and adds that a girl of the Jewish faith is not permissible either. "When we saw that audition tape," Glassman recalled, "I thought this is the reality TV's answer to Archie Bunker. You know, she is just bigoted. I don't think she has hate in her heart, but she has a closed mind and a way of offending people and that's really hurtful. And the show is really about a younger generation, including her own kid who completely disagrees with her and handles this by making her eat her words over and over again."
In regards to the outspoken Mrs. B, Seacrest added, "I have to admit that at some points during this shoot, I was taken aback by the way she said certain things. But I think that the beauty of it was to see the girls want to outsmart her, to see the girls want to be clever around her, and to see the girls react to her in a way that I would've reacted to her."
With all the drama swirling around, Glassman and Seacrest agreed that the "Momma's Boys" shoot was different than the other shows they've been involved with in the past. Glassman mentioned, "This reality show had many more... producer timeouts than anything I've ever produced in the past - moments when Ryan and I were watching the monitors and things escalated to a level of controversy where we needed to put the cameras down for just a little bit to settle things down."
It wasn't all high drama during the shoot, however. Some of the girls actually stood out from the pack for being the opposite of the bawdy, obnoxious girl that has become something of a staple on other reality dating shows. One such contestant, Megan, is often seen in the premiere episode cleaning up after the other girls and hiding in the kitchen instead of socializing and jockeying to catch the eyes of the bachelors. Of Megan, Seacrest said, " I think she's adorable... she's just so cute and cuddly, and you just want to be around her energy. She's got a big heart and clearly she's still trying to find her way. And she is shy. But, you know, many of us have gone through a stage in our life, if we're not still going through it, where we don't feel like we totally fit in. And I think that she represents that."
Further explaining the dynamics of the show, Seacrest also explained that the so-called 'momma's boys' may love being pampered but they didn't necessarily want their mothers present constantly. "They are focused guys. They're driven guys. But I think that at some places they would've wished that their moms weren't watching over their shoulders as they were getting into a hot tub with the girl because the guys are certainly there to conduct themselves as their mothers would want."
While playing matchmaker for the three young men of "Momma's Boys," what about his "American Idol" co-star, Simon Cowell, who recently went through a much-publicized breakup with model Terri Seymour? "I'm a little bit worried about him," Seacrest admitted. "It's a tough time for him right now and so I've just been the shoulder to cry on. I'm a little concerned at going into the holidays, which is a tough time to be alone, wondering how he'll make it. So I don't think he'd be ready for this quite yet."
With his producing slate including the E! hit, "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" as well as the upcoming MTV series, "Bromance," Seacrest shared what he sees as the elements of making a successful series. "For me it boils down to story. Great stories make great TV shows. Great characters make great TV shows. So whether you're singing on 'American Idol' - I mean you're looking at which character do you root for? Who is the one that you want to see make it to the next week? It's the same thing with a show like this. Fundamentally, you're looking for those characters that you can either relate to, the ones that you disagree with. Who is the villain? Who is the underdog? Those are fundamental principles in producing a great TV show."
With Seacrest seemingly everywhere these days, he spoke of another broadcaster who has had a long, successful career doing a little bit of everything. "I really, really get a thrill out of being on air live and not thinking about what we're going to do, and sort of coming up with things on the fly. I think that Regis [Philbin] has obviously mastered doing that and... he's charming, likable and he's a pro. And I think that he's also the type of person that hopefully I can be and continue to be where I don't take myself too seriously when I do it."
As for the possibility that Seacrest would ever offer his personal life up for scrutiny under the reality TV microscope? "This is just a gut feeling," Seacrest commented, "but I sense that America gets their fair share and enough of me as it is right now. I don't know if they need another dose."
"Momma's Boys" premieres tonight on NBC at 10:00/9:00c before moving to its regular timeslot on Monday nights next week.