Monday, July 14, 2003

Muellers: It was intense

Family recounts winnowing process in a fishbowl

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Making a reality show can be an unreal experience.

Filming would begin at 9 a.m., and sometimes not stop until 2 a.m., say Glendale's Mueller family, stars of NBC's Who Wants to Marry My Dad?

"It was way harder than you think," says Heidi Mueller, 21.

Her father, Don Mueller, 48, found it awkward being surrounded by eight cameras all the time, "and another 30 crew behind them," he says.

"We're not actors. I have no experience. So you just have to be yourself," he says. "I didn't get a script. That's not to say if you did completely mess up, they might let you redo it. But as a rule, what you say is a lot of what you get."

The Muellers learned that reality TV show participants sometimes must agree to alter reality - a couple of little white lies - to make good TV.

In the premiere, son Chris, 22, welcomes the women into the Southern California mansion rented by the production company by saying: "This is our house." It even had a sign, "The Muellers," at the front door.

The ruse didn't last long.

"After the first day, we had to tell the truth," says daughter Karla Barela, 25.

Up until the taping, Mueller thought it was really bizarre that reality TV participants would get so weepy when another contestant, someone they had just met, would be eliminated from the show. Now he understands, after experiencing how he and his four children bonded so quickly with the female contestants living with them in the huge Southern California house.

"You're not just there for a couple of days, but you're there for weeks. And people came from all over planning on staying until the end - and then they're told to go," Heidi says.

Says her father: "You're provided so much information about each person, and you're living together 24 hours a day, so everything is accelerated. Every day is like three weeks. And if somebody stays in the house three weeks, it's almost like you've known them six months. It's like a roller-coaster ride. People don't want to leave the house. You really don't want them to leave."

Viewers will see the shock and dismay on the Mueller kids' faces tonight when an unexpected fax orders them to vote out one of the ladies after their first breakfast.

"People say to me, 'Was it fun?' That's not the word I think of," Mueller says.

"It was partly fun, of course, but I think of the words 'stress' or 'emotions.' It was emotional."

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