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Dating Gamers Run the Gantlet

July 22, 2002|MICHELLE MALTAIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As if the dating scene weren't already stressful enough and the thought of unsolicited parental input didn't induce shuddering, NBC offers an entry in the surreality TV category to take it all to another level.

"Meet My Folks" (premiering tonight at 10, then continuing Wednesdays at 8) is an odd cocktail of the 2000 movie "Meet the Parents," starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, and MTV's "The Real World," leaving the three male contestants both shaken and stirred. Each episode follows three bachelors braving a weekend with a single woman--oh, and her mom and dad.

In the premiere, average guys Kory, Christopher and Jason vie for Senta's affection--and more important, Rhoda and Randy Blankenship's approval. Although Senta seems intrigued, Dad is less than impressed with the guys, particularly as more is learned about each.

Every time the doorbell rings, another bone appears as skeletons are shoved from their respective closets. The men are confronted with and confounded by letters from former employers and so-called best friends, as well as ex-girlfriends in the flesh.

From the physical challenge initiated by the dad, a whistle-wearing football coach, to a lie detector test, the three suitors spend most of the weekend on edge. The prize: The surviving beau gets a week in Hawaii with the young woman. (Note that the vacation is longer than the time the parents get for scrutinizing the guy and that the closing credits indicate the couple don't have to go.)

Of course, this is contrived "reality." People generally don't have to process that much information--dirty little secrets and all--about a prospective mate while being bombarded with video-taped revelations and ghosts of relationships past at every turn. And we learn little if anything about the young woman.

That being said, the show, in all of its calculated glory, has a quality that's more riveting than a freeway chase.

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