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TV Tonight: Momma's Boys

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Momma’s Boys, the NBC dating-show-with-a-twist from Ryan Seacrest, has a bold statement to make about prejudice in our supposedly postracial, melting-pot society: it’s still a great way to get a lot of attention for an otherwise dull reality show. 

The premise of the show—basically an MTV dating premise adapted to a broadcast-network audience—is that three eligible young men move into a house to try to find a mate from among a bevy of hot suitoresses. But they bring their adoring, overprotective mothers along with them, and the women have to compete to impress the moms too. 

As they say in the reality ads, “The sparks soon fly!” Most of the early ones fly from the racist mouth of one Khalood Bojanowski, a Michigan mom who quickly declares that she needs her son to end up with a white Catholic girl: no black, Asian, Muslim or Jewish bachelorettes need apply. This rubs many of the girls the wrong way when they see her interview tape, and they quickly confront the loudmouthed Bojanowski, with all the restraint of contestants encouraged to put on a good show for the reality cameras. 

Now, I suppose there could be an interesting story to be told through this setup. There’s the irony, for instance, of the fact that Bojanowski’s son is apparently the product what some equally bigoted people would also think of as a mixed marriage. (Bojanowski is identified as an Iraqi Catholic, so I’m guessing she’s Chaldean by background, given the large Chaldean population in the Detroit area. But Bojanowski—and I’m speaking as a Moroccan/Sephardic-Polish/Catholic hybrid myself—does not strike me as a Middle Eastern surname.) 

Instead, there’s just a lot of heat and no light, and the constant reminder that—given that Bojanowski freely spewed her bigotry to producers, they knew exactly what they were doing placing her in this setting. And she’s not the only one playing to stereotypes here. Another bachelor’s mom, Esther,  is a stereotypical smothering-Jewish mom, right down to the Yiddishisms, the kvelling over her “mensch” son and the Coffee Talk accent.

I’m not saying the woman’s not like this in real life, of course, but if she were a fictional character, she’d seem over the top if not offensive. That she was chosen only adds to the evidence that the producers were casting for the broadest stereotypes here (in the young ladies also, a mix of dating-show divas, doe-eyed good girls and nude models). And of course the basic premise—that the natural enemy of single women are the controlling moms trying to stand between them and future husbands—is yet another lame family-comedy staple. 

Momma’s Boys is produced by Ryan Seacrest—who also proudly brought us Keeping Up with the Kardashians—who is seemingly trying to perpetuate a final stereotype: that reality producers are willing to stoop as low as necessary for a hit. Good work on that one.