Speaking of crushingly awful reality shows, (all of them) USA Today has the scoop on the hoops contestants must leap through just to get on each pitiful mess:
- Name. Address. Age. Education. Sexual fantasy. What kind of application asks for such an intimate detail? One that gets the winning hopeful a much-desired gig: a spot on a reality TV show. In this case, NBC's Meet My Folks.
The very personal questions on the application – including "craziest date" and "Ever had a threesome?" – can be skipped, presumably at the risk of not making the cut for the reality show that lets parents pick a date for their daughter or son.
The couple of dozen young adults filling out the Folks form in a studio office hallway on a recent Saturday make up only a tiny fraction of those hoping to be cast on a reality TV show. More than 2,000 would-be daredevils waited up to 10 hours recently in Florida to try for a spot on NBC's Fear Factor. CBS' Survivor has attracted up to 50,000 hopefuls for 16 tropical tribal spots. And applicants face roughly 3,000-to-1 odds of making the casts of MTV's The Real World and Road Rules. (Related story: Learn how to become a contestant on a reality show)
"It's harder to get on these shows than it is to get into Harvard," says Jonathan Murray, who produces the MTV shows.
This raw material, ordinary people who want to be on TV, is needed for a genre exploding in size. Survivor, TheReal World, Fear Factor and The Bachelor head a list of more than a dozen prime-time reality shows, not to mention syndicated "date-coms" such as Blind Date. And the list is growing: UPN is searching for a Supermodel, CBS is reviving Star Search, Fox is expecting engagements in Married by America, and ABC is looking to muss heirs with an inheritance show, The Will.
The Meet My Folks hopefuls, who get individual videotaped interviews after filling out multipage forms, have come for various reasons, but getting a date doesn't seem to top the list.
Cazzey Cereghino, 23, a screenwriter, auditions because "in the entertainment industry, you're looking for any exposure you can get." Indiana high school senior Adrienne Williams stops by while on a visit to explore a Hollywood career.
The lures of appearing on this show, like many of its kind, include the chance for fame, adventure and a prize – in this case, a date in an exotic location. Although some people introduced by Meet My Folks have become couples, applicants here aren't getting their hopes too high about finding true romance. They understand the realities of reality TV.
If I were a contestant (I was on Tic Tac Dough in the early '80s), I wouldn't want some of this information to get into the wrong hands – like the FBI.