Local family on tonight's `Meet My Folks'
By TIM ENGLE
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Sat, Feb. 01, 2003
For the record, Melana Scantlin's dad wasn't one of those hard-core, give-the-little-twerps-a-hard-time kind of father when guys would come by the house to pick her up.
He's pretty easygoing, actually. But tonight on national TV, Steve Scantlin and his wife, Eugeneia, get to put three of their 25-year-old daughter's would-be boyfriends through the wringer -- all in the name of entertainment. The show is "Meet My Folks" (9 p.m. on NBC, Channel 41), which just launched its second season after a successful run last summer.
"Meet My Folks" is, of course, a reality show (what isn't these days?) and a game show to boot. No one gets paid, but the prize for the victorious guy is a trip with Melana to Hawaii. (Her parents will be going, too.)
And whether it's guys competing for a girl or vice versa, "Meet My Folks" always gives the parents the power: They decide which wooer wins the big date, helped along by sometimes sadistic challenges dreamed up by the producers. Example: In tonight's episode, all three of Melana's suitors have to perform impromptu stand-up routines at a comedy club. Afterward, one is cut.
And it wouldn't be "Meet My Folks" without an inquisition by a rotund fellow with a lie-detector machine. Typical question: "Do you think Mom is a good cook?"
Melana Scantlin is, by the way, something of a local celebrity. Melana (say it "muh-LAY-nuh") is the live-entertainment announcer at Kansas City Chiefs games; you've probably seen her on the big screens at Arrowhead. She's an on-camera personality for Dodge Race Day telecasts in this region. She's also a former Chiefs cheerleader and a former Miss Missouri USA (2002).
The Scantlins, who live in Gladstone, were prohibited from talking about which young buck wins Melana's hand or even much about what transpired during filming last November. But their experience does shed some light on how "real" reality TV actually is. For instance:
• The house you see tonight may say "The Scantlins" out front, but that's not their house. It's actually a multimillion-dollar mansion in Encino, Calif., complete with gated driveway, guesthouse, swimming pool and tennis courts. Eugeneia points out that few homes would be big enough to accommodate not only a family but also an entire TV production crew. The control room was out in the garage; the lie-detector tests were administered in the guesthouse.
• To make the L.A. house look like it was the Scantlins', producers went through the Scantlins' real home and picked out items -- pictures mostly -- to scatter about their TV house.
• The Scantlins and the three young men really did live in the house during the three days of filming. Bright and early each morning, crew guys would alert the six stars of how much time they had before they had to be "miked" and ready to face the cameras.
"You honestly feel like you're on `The Truman Show,' " Melana says. Eugeneia agrees: At the end, "I felt like I'd left Cartoonville."
• Melana says she's sure the three guys were encouraged by producers to get romantic with her. But she wasn't having it: "Some girls get on TV and they go crazy," she says. "I told the producers, listen -- I'm not going to make out with three guys just for a TV show." She does confess, though, that we're likely to see an "unexpected" kiss tonight.
"All three of the boys were sweethearts," her mom says. Chances are, though, some pretty awful things will be revealed about each of them.
• During on-camera interviews, participants were sometimes told to repeat what they'd just said -- just shorter or snappier. But there wasn't an actual script.
• The Scantlins wore their own clothes, which in Steve's case meant he had to buy new ones. He wears a lot of Polo, but the show wouldn't allow any brand-name logos. Producers also vetoed several of his shirts because they were too "noisy" for TV.
Despite those conceits, the show's outcome wasn't contrived -- Steve and Eugeneia weren't told which man to pick as the winner. And despite having to stand in a certain place, have one camera in front of you and another behind you, and hear the director yell, "Action!" -- producers did seem interested in eliciting real reactions from the participants, the Scantlins say.
" `Just act natural. You'll be fine,' " Steve remembers being told. " `This is your house. Do what you would do and react to the situation.' So I did."
Why did Melana and her folks decide to do this show in the first place? Her parents say they did it for her. Besides her Chiefs work, Melana is an actress and model, and her parents figured some national TV exposure couldn't hurt.
Steve had to be talked into auditioning with his wife and daughter: "I really didn't want to do it." He figured he'd come off looking like a goof. After the first day of filming, though, he was able to relax a little. Since he got back, co-workers at John Chezik Honda -- he's used-car sales manager there -- have been calling him "Movie Star."
As for Melana, she has a serious boyfriend here, which tells us she must not have made a TV love connection. No matter: She and the winner can still go to Hawaii this fall, the folks in tow.