There are 38 characters in “Momma’s Boy,” but only one truly matters: Khalood, a 50-year-old Michigan woman who proclaims at the outset that only a white Catholic gal will do for her son — no blacks, no Jews, “no mixture at all.” Thanks to her, this otherwise completely derivative amalgam of “The Bachelor” and “Meet My Folks” takes on a distasteful train-wreck quality, providing its one shot at breaking out on a network that could desperately use an unexpected hit. Based on the mid-December launch, the prospects look better for Khalood to win an NAACP image award.
The ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest teams with Andrew Glassman (“Average Joe”) as producers of this dating game, with 32 women occupying a Santa Barbara estate (“Temptation Mansion,” one of them purrs) to vie for the attention of three twentysomething dudes. The women represent your average dating-pool assortment, designed according to the narrator (I kid you not) to “make the experience more authentic.” Authentic, in this case, means a former Penthouse Pet of the Year; a Playboy model; an easily agitated ditz queen; a plastic blow-up doll who boasts about blowing her student loan on a “second boob job;” and a glasses-wearing plain Jane who’s transparently one Cinemax-style makeover away from va-va-voom territory.
The twist, such as it is, is that each guy brings along his mother — even rough-and-tough firefighter Michael, who’s 25 and lives at home; and 24-year-old real estate broker Rob, whose “typical Jewish mom” Esther can’t help kvelling about the smorgasbord awaiting her baby.
Still, the real “Oy vey” moment doesn’t kick in until the Iranian-born Khalood shows up, spewing narrow-minded views about what she expects for her son, Jojo, in a videotaped interview that goes over within the ethnically diverse house like the proverbial lead balloon.
And boy, do the producers know it, teasing Khalood’s arrival the way the WWE introduces a villainous wrestler, including an explosive, expletive-laden exchange with one of the African-American contestants. That brief flash of anger, alas, is the only thing about the premiere that doesn’t feel extensively stage-managed — other than what appears to be a producer inadvertently walking through a shot.
All told, it’s the most familiar of reality concepts with all the usual tricks — barely deviating from established programs, patterned after a movie (“Monster-in-Law,” anyone?) and relying upon a pithy name to spare the marketing guys from working too hard selling it.
The casting folks, however, might have done their job too well, and the delay from November until December could indicate a tinge of discomfort at building a series around an unabashed bigot. Besides, if Jojo truly loved his momma, would he throw her under the reality TV bus just so he could go shopping in a house filled with models and ingenues?