NEW YORK – One man and one woman still have "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" — and viewers are very interested.
The zany reality show starring bisexual Internet celebrity Tila Tequila is among the top 15 cable shows and has become MTV's second most popular series, just behind Lauren Conrad and company on "The Hills," according to numbers from Nielsen Media Research.
"Who would have ever thought I'd be the girl who does that for MTV?" Tequila wonders.
In case you're one of the few people who hasn't seen or read a blog about "A Shot a Love," the gist of the dating show is this: a 26-year-old MySpace pinup searches for love "Bachelor"-style among 16 men and 16 women, who compete for alone time with her in over-the-top challenges — chocolate syrup wrestling, for example — and share one oversized bed. Then, at the end of each episode, she chirpily tells the non-eliminated contestants, "You still have a shot at love. Are you interested?" And they usually are.
"It was kind of weird at first," Tequila told The Associated Press during a recent telephone interview about filming the show. "I thought, 'What am I doing here? Can I leave now?' But once you get to know people, you become involved."
In the finale (airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST), Tequila — whose real last name is Nguyen — will choose between Dani Campbell, a 29-year-old female firefighter from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Bobby Banhart, a 25-year-old male film student from Worchester, N.Y.
Tequila, who realized she was bisexual at age 11, says she's still dating the person she selected when production on the seedy show ended earlier this year. She also doesn't communicate with any of the contestants who didn't earn one of the giant keys to her heart.
"I don't keep up with anybody except for the person I picked," Tequila says. "I've eliminated them. I don't intend on reopening those sores to respect the person I'm with."
However, Tequila will come face-to-face with at least 20 of the contestants, including a few folks that claimed they fell in love with Tequila on the show, during a special reunion show she says is filming Friday (and will air Dec. 23 at 10 p.m. EST).
"It will bring me back right where we left off," she says. "I'll be able to say some things I never got to say to a few of them. Tell a few of them off."
"A Shot at Love," which has featured an ample amount of reality TV bawling and brawling, has ignited some blogworthy buzz for MTV, the aging cable network that's spent the past few years attempting to gain a foothold in the digital world.
The sudsy show has also attracted criticism, both good and bad, from all over.
A post on AfterEllen.com, a site focusing on lesbian and bisexual women in the media that posts video commentary on the series, questioned whether Tequila was the ideal representative for bisexuals. Meanwhile, the conservative group Media Research Center dubbed the show "MTV's latest poison."
The hype, however, bubbled over last month when the New York Post's Page Six called Tequila an "MTV skank" and quoted an anonymous source apparently associated with the production who claimed Tequila was faking bisexuality for MTV cameras.
"If they're going to accuse me of something like that, they could've at least been more articulate about it, instead of calling me an 'MTV skank,'" Tequila told the AP. "It's not valid at all. It's so off the charts, it's like, 'Wow. That's really absurd.'"
MTV series development guru Tony DiSanto points to the show's original will-she-choose-a-man-or-a-woman format as the main reason for its success.
"It's one of those shows where you never know what's going to happen next," DiSanto says. "I think there's an innate curiosity in wondering what is going to make Tila decide between a man and a woman. It makes for a compelling piece of programming that you just can't take your eyes off of."
DiSanto says Tequila is now a "member of the MTV family." That doesn't mean she's hosting "Total Request Live" or doing brunch with L.C. However, Tequila did have a recent run-in with "Hills" villainess Heidi Montag in the ladies room at the Spike TV Video Game Awards.
"She chased me down in the bathroom," Tequila recalls. "She was really sweet. I was so surprised, actually. She wanted to say hi. I would've expected that from Lauren but not Heidi. So now I'm a big fan of Heidi and Spencer."
Tequila will host MTV's live masquerade-themed New Year's Eve programming. Beyond that, however, her role at the cable network is uncertain.
Casting notices have circulated online for a second season of "A Shot at Love" and "That's Amore!" — a new dating show starring goofy "Shot at Love" castoff Domenico Nessi. MTV won't confirm that either is in the works, but Tequila says the network did approach her about taking another "Shot at Love."
"They're talking about it," Tequila says. "I don't want to think about it so fast. I just got settled in. If it doesn't work out, then maybe there could be another season. Right now, I'm just happy where I am."