Fair Oaks couple choose a date for son on 'Folks'
By Alison apRoberts -- Sacramento Bee
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Sunday, January 19, 2003
What do you do when your son invites you to pick a date for him in front of millions of people? Jim and Julie Maloney said yes.
Monday night at 10, their friends and neighbors in Sacramento, along with millions of strangers across the country, will be able to watch their reality-TV matchmaking on NBC's "Meet My Folks."
"We didn't really think we'd be picked," said Julie Maloney, laughing at her family's unlikely adventure in the celebrity zone.
But the Maloneys are custom-made for reality TV. You couldn't find any couple more real and less showbiz. They live far from Hollywood in suburban Fair Oaks and have real-people jobs. He is 51 and works as a computer systems analyst for a private firm in town; she is 46 and an X-ray mammography technician. They have been married for 26 years and have two grown sons.
They are not the sort of people you read about in the tabloids.
But the Maloneys and their oldest son, Dan, who is 23 and a graduate of Del Campo High School, are about to have quite a bit more than their 15 minutes of fame -- the fleeting allotment Andy Warhol promised us all -- by starring in three episodes of "Meet My Folks," the NBC reality show that resumes after romancing large audiences during its summer debut.
In an interview at their home, the Maloneys still seem a little surprised at their impending celebrity as they look at themselves in a half-page ad in the TV Guide. But there they are in the promo that shows their son in a hot tub with several scantily clad women, and big type that sums up the setup: "8 Women, 1 Bachelor, Parents Decide!"
The adventure began when Dan Maloney was approached at a dance club in the San Diego area, the kind of college-community place where scouts for the show troll for the attractive and eligible. The first time he was asked to consider auditioning, he said no. But when he was asked again on another night, he started thinking about the potential payoff: a free trip to Europe. As a senior majoring in economics at University of California, San Diego, he liked the cost-benefit profile. He said he'd ask his parents.
In the fall, the family interviewed with the show producers, and a few weeks later they spent a cozy and surreal week in a house in the Los Angeles area -- just the three of them, eight women they'd never met before, and a zillion TV cameras and crew.
Choosing among the wannabe dates was not easy.
"You know you have to pick, and you like them all," Jim Maloney said.
"It gets emotional," his wife added.
Dan Maloney, remarkably, said he didn't mind letting his parents choose for him.
Talking on a wireless phone from the house off-campus where Maloney lives with four other young men, he said he figured his parents were cool enough to do such a show and pick wisely.
"They're pretty chill; I thought they'd be good for the job," he said. He swears he didn't find it particularly embarrassing to have his parents ask young women they'd never met before embarrassing questions about their sexual history and intentions, or even having his parents see him flirt and do considerably more to get to know his potential dates.
"My parents and I have always had a really cool relationship," Dan Maloney said.
His parents did not pay him to say this. Now, thanks to the show, they don't have to pay for his two-week trip to Europe, either.
"This just saves us a graduation present," Julie Maloney said. Her son plans to take the trip this summer. And no, we're not going to tell you which young woman his parents chose for his traveling date.
Dan Maloney explains on camera the type of date he hopes to land in the first episode: "Basically, I like the clubby blond girls with the slim waists, and big-around booties and large breasts."
His mother, also in the first episode, says she wants to find "someone intelligent enough to keep him interested." She adds: "I think the girls better do a lot of sucking up to me if they want to get picked."
Before the selection (which will be shown in the third and final episode Saturday night), there are trials and tests, including lie-detector sessions, and personal revelations of all sorts, from body piercings and computer hacking to many scenes with little clothing.
All this exposure has not perceptibly changed the Maloneys' lives, although Jim and Julie Maloney admit it might have nudged them just a little in their decision to purchase a 61-inch screen TV, where they will watch their big debut Monday night.
They will probably be joined by millions of other viewers, given the show's track record and the considerable on-air promotion for these episodes. "Meet My Folks" wooed and won enough viewers to be one of the top-rated shows of the summer among adults 18-49 (with an average 5.2 rating and 14 share). It also was a top 10 show in total viewership, grabbing an average of 10.7 million viewers on Monday evenings. The show will settle into a 10 p.m. Saturday slot with the final Maloney episode.
The series will be romancing variety in the coming weeks, mixing up the basic setup. In one upcoming episode parents pick a set of twins for their son to date; in another, called "Meet My Kids," teenage children choose a potential mate for their single parent. If you want to meet the Maloneys before the evening broadcast, they are appearing at 3 p.m. Monday on Channel 10 on the daytime talk show "The Other Half."
None of the family is giving up a day job to pursue a career in front of the lights. In fact, each looks forward to the celebrity dying down, even before it begins.
"I don't think I'm looking forward to that; I think it will be annoying," Dan Maloney said. After graduation, he insists he won't become a professional hunk; he plans to keep his shirt on and pursue a career in finance.
"I got tired of having my lipstick done," Julie Maloney said. "I don't want our life to change. After a week, we'll forget."
Dan Maloney's younger brother didn't want to be any part of the celebrity adventure -- a la Aimee Osbourne, the oldest child of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, who opted not to share her family's reality-TV lifestyle.
Sharing the spotlight as a family was a once-in-a-lifetime event that took a certain strength of character and connection. How many young men would be cool with the prospect of having friends and strangers watching as their mom says, "Son, do you know you have a s'more on your butt?"
For Jim and Julie Maloney it was a strange experience in which blush-worthy public exposure has already had a private payoff.
"It was a bonding thing for our family," Julie Maloney said. "We like our son, and the fact that he would want to be seen with us; it was nice."