Meet my folks – on national TV

Janelle Matulich, dances with the rest of the Gold Rush

– How many parents wish they had a say in who their child is
SAN MARTIN – How many parents wish they had a say in who their child is dating?

Bruce and Denise Matulich, of San Martin, had a rare opportunity to actually choose from three men seeking to win a date with their daughter. The only catch – their entire experience would be broadcast on national television.

“That was kind of a parent’s dream,” Denise said about the chance to pick out the perfect guy for her daughter, 22-year-old San Francisco 49ers cheerleader Janelle Matulich, which she got to do when filming an episode of NBC’s reality dating show “Meet My Folks.”

While some parents rarely get much more than a superficial idea about who their child is dating, the Matuliches got to know more than they could ever imagine about the three male suitors on the show during the four days of filming.

“Before we started, they promised we could get six-month’s worth of knowledge about the boys in four days,” Diane said.

And they were right.

“Janelle had dated a number of guys over the years. … When you first meet them, there’s a halo effect and you think, ‘What a great guy,’ ” Bruce said. “From there they can go downhill or reinforce it, but that takes three to six months or even a year. Here, it takes just a few days.”

In the show “Meet My Folks,” three suitors spend four days in a house with the girl or guy they are pursuing and his or her parents. Along the way, there are all sorts of twists, including a lie detector test, secret tasks and revelations about the suitors’ pasts, some of which are revealed through a fax machine set up in the house. While some of the things the staff of the show unearths can be embarrassing, it’s worth the risk for the men hoping to win over the parents, get the girl and win a trip with the family to Hawaii.

The Matuliches’ episode of “Meet My Folks” will air at 10 p.m. today on NBC, but the process of being on the show started last year.

It all began when NBC approached the San Francisco 49ers’ 32-member cheerleading team, named the Gold Rush, about the show. Three single cheerleaders were interested in doing the show, including Janelle, even though she had never seen the show before.

“We jumped on it,” she said. “The contestants are pre-screened, so you can’t go wrong with it.”

From there, the Matulich family had an interview with producers, who wanted to make sure they would be a good fit.

“They contacted us at home on speaker phone, and we had to tape it and turn the tape into them the next day,” Janelle said. “It was like a strange video conference.”

It was a different experience, but Janelle was excited about learning how a show like this comes together. A full-time student at San Jose State University in radio, television and film, Janelle was getting a first-hand look at the making of a TV show.

“That’s another reason I was interested in the show,” said Janelle, a graduate of Santa Theresa High School in San Jose.

Two weeks after sending in the tape, the family heard back from the show and found out they had been chosen. Two weeks before the show, two directors flew in to meet with the family before they went off to Los Angeles for taping last December.

“We were taken to a house in L.A.,” Janelle said. “We didn’t have enough room for the crew, the cameraman and the lighting (in our house).”

Anywhere from 75 to 100 producers, cameramen and other crew were in the house at all times to watch every move the Matuliches and the three suitors made.

“We were having dinner with the three boys, Janelle and I, and there were four to six cameras with cameramen, each had a sound man, plus there were lighting and a field director,” Bruce said.

Denise also was amazed by how much work goes into the show.

“I never had a clue how much goes into the production,” she said. “Everyone gets to see the finished product, but no one gets to see the behind-the-scenes. There is a lot that goes into an hour show,”

More than 50 hours of video footage was whittled down to a 44-minute program. While that means a lot of film never finds its way out of the editing room, it also means the show is high-paced. And that’s no exception in the Matuliches’ show, either.

During the filming, 14 of Janelle’s Gold Rush teammates came to put the three guys through the ropes of being a cheerleader.

“It’s really funny,” Janelle said. “I don’t want to give away too much, but I think people will enjoy it.”

While it was an unexpected twist for the guys, she said it helped give them an idea of what she does.

“In a relationship, I want a man to respect what I do,” said Janelle, who was named rookie of the year last year out of 15 new members to the squad. “Gold Rush is a huge part of my life.”

Janelle said she wouldn’t be a part of the team if she couldn’t give it her all and be a part of all the promotions and causes that come with being a public figure. She and her family have always been huge 49ers fans. The family has four season tickets for home games, and Janelle just bought a car painted “49ers red.”

“You’re not allowed in the family unless you’re a die-hard ‘Niners fan,” she said.

The family, who has lived in San Martin for four years now, also are involved with the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance, which is pushing to incorporate the community into a full-fledged city. Denise was recently named to the group’s board, and Janelle is using a portion of the proceeds from selling the 49ers cheerleader calendar to raise money for the cause.

During the show, Janelle’s parents had to choose from Hawk, a WWF wrestler and the funny jock type; Dylan, the all-American boy; and Robert, the bad boy. While Janelle can make a plea to her parents to choose a certain guy, it’s all up to mom and dad.

“I don’t really have much to say,” Janelle said. “It’s up to them.”

Denise said that while it was fun to be in control of who was picked, she was surprised how close their tastes were.

“What amazed us was how in tune we were,” she said. “Except for an ever-so-slight difference, she went for the one I hoped she’d go for. It’s good character more than anything else.”

While only one lucky winner gets to go to Hawaii with Janelle and her parents, she said they all were nice.

“The guys were amazing,” she said.

And while she really liked the winner, she said since all three of the men were from Southern California, it makes it difficult to continue to date.

“I think we’re just friends,” she said. “I think it’s difficult to maintain a relationship from that far away.”