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These couples truck on the first date

A production crew documents one of the many vehicular havens while making the show Pickups & Hookups. Appearances are everything, as a girl chooses a date based on his truck.
Handout photo

A production crew documents one of the many vehicular havens while making the show Pickups & Hookups. Appearances are everything, as a girl chooses a date based on his truck. Handout photo

On this reality dating show, the guys arm wrestle for the girl and win her heart while mattress riding, mud bogging and Spam carving.

Naturally, in the end, the happy couple rides off into the sunset.

Redneck romance is the focus of Pickups & Hookups, a new dating show being pitched for CMT. Filming of the pilot episode took place a few weeks ago at Don Balaban's farm in Thonotosassa, northeast of Tampa. He's a corporal with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Call it a honkytonk version of The Bachelorette, where a group of men vie for the affection of one woman during a series of eliminations. In Pickups, the girl chooses from three men, starting with an inspection of their pickup trucks. With flashlight and kitchen tongs, she scopes out each man's truck and eliminates one that least matches her style.

The owners of the two remaining trucks arm wrestle each other to determine who gets the first date with her. The dates involve some type of country activity, from Spam carving to skeet shooting to mattress riding (where you tie a mattress behind a pickup and hold on for dear life). The dates end with lunch.

A short 30 minutes later, the woman chooses which guy she'd like to see again, and they ride off.

CMT licensed the pilot to GRB Entertainment of Sherman Oaks, Calif., which produced the show in Tampa using local crews and contestants. Rose Rosen handled the casting, combing the Dallas Bull and other country bars for single guys in cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans.

Supervising producer Jason Edwards said GRB plans to finish the pilot in January and could start filming this spring, if network executives give the go-ahead. Edwards expects he would return to Tampa to shoot some of the episodes.

"We feel very confident with the show. They already like it,'' said Edwards, a freelance producer who does work for the Discovery Channel, including the show Smash Lab.

If chosen, CMT would pair Pickups with My Redneck Wedding, which chronicles the weddings of country couples. The show is among several reality shows that have filmed or recruited the cast locally, said Lindsey Norris, Tampa Bay Film Commission manager. "Tampa is affordable and beautiful'' with distinctive backdrops close to one another, she said.

These couples truck on the first date 12/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 25, 2008 3:31am]

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