Eye of the Potato talked recently with Matt Vener, former casting director for one of MTV’s most daring reality shows, the now-canceled series Date My Mom. The highly rated dating show featured contestants who chose their potential mates based on dates they have with the mates’ mothers. Eye discusses with Vener why the show was canceled, why casting the gay and lesbian episodes was so difficult, and where they found those freaky moms.
Date My Mom was a pretty bold show while it was on TV. Did you guys ever receive criticism for some of the antics, like when that one mom tied a cherry stem with her tongue? There are a couple of things people have talked about; I think at one time Jon Stewart had said something on his show. But when people make comments, that means it stood out. So people watched it because of it.
Why did the mothers and daughters want to go on this show? Were many of them interested in a career in acting? Yes, I think it was two things. These daughters had also just turned 18, 19, and were about to go to college. It was their last chance to do a show with their parents that they could show to the kids one day.
Right, but it’s not like MTV could have done Date My Dad, right? It would’ve been pretty weird.
How did you find these people? Were they all applicants who applied through MTV.com? No, I have to give it to my staff of recruiters, who go out to nightclubs, beaches, colleges and find all these people. Most of the contestants came from holding events at clubs . . .”Hey, we’re coming to your club, casting for Date My Mom.”
It always seemed like the daughter was hot, the mom was ugly. Or the mom was hot, the daughter was ugly. Did you try to mix it up with with a certain number of each? We wanted to mix it up and give everyone a shot. We didn’t want people to think you just had to be hot to be on the show. It was up to the guy, based on what the mom would tell him. We wanted to see if the guy would pick based on beauty or on what he felt comfortable hanging out with.
Do you think these guys can really tell what the daughter will look like based on the mom’s appearance? We asked ourselves that, too. A lot of the times he picked the girl that maybe wasn’t so hot but he had more in common with. It did work to show people that looks don’t matter all the time. I mean, now the girl might look a little different than he thought, but that’s what he gets. Ha, ha.
The show had lesbian episodes too, right? Yes. Each season we did five gay or lesbian episodes.
Did MTV want it? Were you pushing for it? MTV is very free-expression, and they love to add that to their shows, the diversity. That’s what I think is cool about MTV, that they have no fear in taking risks and actually putting that type of stuff on the air. And it broadens the audience, showing kids that look, this is what’s happening out there.
It’s cool they did lesbian episodes, not just gay episodes. And to be honest with you, those were the funniest episodes we had.
How was casting for those? Pretty hard. because you’re dealing with 18 year olds who maybe haven’t told their parents yet they’re out of the closet or gay, so it’s harder to get them to come in with their parents. Or some of the parents were like, ‘Hey, I want to do it, but I don’t want people at my work to find out stuff like that.’ So the moms who did it with their daughters, we let them know that this is awesome that you’re stepping up for your child. To this day, we still all appreciate those parents.
Did you feel like you had to do more encouraging? Sometimes I had to talk to the parents. [Let them know] we’re not putting them on the show to make fun, but to be on the show to support their daughter or son.
I know MTV is often suspected of possibly scripting their reality shows, particularly Laguna Beach. With Date My Mom, was it all pretty real? I also think it has to do with a lot of the people who come in and audition for the show; they see how the pattern works. Reality shows have formulas, but whether . . . I wouldn’t know, because I wasn’t on set producing it. I just did the casting. I’m the wrong person to ask.
Why was the show canceled? We had done 100 episodes, and MTV doesn’t like to be repetitive. It was successful; it was highly rated; we run reruns now and it still brings in higher ratings than some other shows that just came out.
Were there ever any long-term relationships to come out of Date My Mom? There are definitely a few people who have called and said, “Thanks so much, I’m still hanging out with her, dating.” No one’s getting married yet, but still dating.
And I still like her mom! Ha, ha.