Momma’s Boys twists familiar dating show format by adding disturbing moms

Momma’s Boys debuts tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following the two-hour finale of The Biggest Loser 5, moving to its Monday at 9 timeslot next week. The series lets three controlling mothers help their grown-up but babied sons find a potential mate. Essentially, it’s like The Bachelor, but with three bachelors, and the bachelors’ moms living with the 32 women.

The series, which is produced by Ryan Seacrest, looks like every other dating show, particularly those that have aired on NBC: the generic mansion, the same musical cues, the same bland guys. The women are obviously cast for their appearances and their nutty personalities, and there are not one but two porn models, one who did Playboy and one who was Penthouse pet of the year. The women are mostly all fun to watch–one, Natalie, says, “You need to be a man. Where are your balls? I myself have cantaloupe-sized, stainless steel balls”–but still somewhat familiar.

What’s really interesting, however, is the relationship between the mothers and their sons. It’s alternately disturbing and heartwarming.

Rob’s mom Esther still buys his underwear for him. Michael’s “Ma” Lorraine does his banking for him, cooks for him, and still makes his bed, although he’s mad about the last part. At one point, she instructs him to take off his shirt to show off his “zero percent body fat” and says, “look at this body!” He looks vaguely creeped out and says, “don’t touch.”

At least in its first episode, Momma’s Boys drops its focus on examining the mothers’ bizarre need to control their sons lives, and their extremely disturbing desire to find mates identical to themselves for their kids. That’s because there’s something bigger to address: the racist mom.

The shit that comes out of Khalood Bojanowski’s mouth will shock you: “I cannot have a black one, I can’t have an Asian one, I can’t have a fat butt girl,” she says. “No Jewish girl, no way, I cannot stand them; I’m sorry, but I can’t handle them. It has to be a white girl. She just have to be perfect and petite, and she has to do what I tell her to.”

Because the show is not at all interested in actually forming relationships, at least not in its first episodes, all of the women know that the mothers are moving in, and then get to watch the mothers’ casting videos, so they know about Khalood’s vile requirements once she walks in the door. That leads to some VH1 moments.

As with most dating shows, the entertainment value has very little to do with the actual possibility for success (witness The Bachelor‘s dismal track record yet continued popularity) and is instead more about the process. Momma’s Boys format may be mostly familiar, but throwing moms with tight relationships with their kids in with the women is a great way to mix things up.

Momma’s Boys [NBC]