Looking for love on the small screen

Devin Grisson, center, searches for love in "Sweet Home Alabama," a new reality dating series on CMT.

Pelham graduate competes in CMT reality dating series

By KATIE COLE / Lifestyles Editor

Collin Varallo was standing in line for the 2011 Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil in Birmingham in late April when he was approached by a man with a folder.

The man identified himself as a recruiter for a new reality dating show for Country Music Television and told Varallo, a 22-year-old Birmingham resident who graduated from Pelham High School in 2008, he would be a good fit for the show.

“Yeah, sure,” Varallo thought dismissively as he folded up the flyer the man gave him and headed into the concert. That brief exchange led to Varallo’s selection as one of 20 contestants vying for the interest of Devin Grissom, a University of Alabama student from Cordova, Tenn. “Sweet Home Alabama” pits 10 “city slickers” against 10 “country boys” from across the country as they compete “Bachelor”-style for Grissom’s affection, according to the show’s website.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Varallo said in a phone interview two weeks before the show’s premiere.

The CMT recruiter from the Crawfish Boil called him the day after the concert. Varallo soon found himself in Skype and phone interviews with the show’s producers. By the end of May, he had packed his bags for Fairhope for a month of filming.

Although he was not a complete stranger to show business – he did some modeling in his “younger days” – he found the presence of the cameras and filming from 6 a.m. to midnight jarring and tiring at first, though he adjusted quickly.

Collin Varallo is a 2008 Pelham High School graduate who competes in a new reality dating series on Country Music Television. Submitted.

Varallo was tight-lipped about the competition and his performance in the show, but called Devin a “Southern belle that you would define as the girl-next-door.”

He did say the show would deviate from the over-the-top dating scenarios typical of most dating shows. Instead of jaunts to tropical islands, “Sweet Home Alabama” features walks on the beach and other Southern dating activities.

“It’s a modern-day love story,” he said.

Another storyline that Varallo expects to see play out in the series is the drama between the two groups of contestants.

“It is a rivalry,” he said. “You’ll see it is a culture clash over a way of life.”

Varallo, who owns Keepin It Green Landscaping in Hoover, said he is looking forward to watching the premiere. While he won’t reveal how he fared in the show, he hasn’t ruled out future reality series or even acting opportunities.

“It’s definitely something I see myself doing for a living or maybe as a hobby,” he said.

Sweet Home Alabama has an eight-episode run and premieres on CMT July 14 at 8 p.m.