Reality Bites

It's the Colorado hillbillies!

 Come and listen to my story about a man named Bill
A poor mountain guv barely filling his state's till
And then one day he was gunning for some cash
When up from the ground came a grinning jackass...

Tourist, that is...

pure gold

Texas twee

How does this sound for a sure-fire reality-TV hit? A camera crew follows members of a family around Colorado as the parents, who've been married for 28 years, separate for no as-yet publicly disclosed reason, with the wife and three kids -- including one son who's had a little brush with the law and has to stay away from school-bus windows -- remaining in their Centennial home while the dad moves into a mansion that just happens to be available, then invites other newly single celebrities, like a certain Super Bowl-winning quarterback and the Silver Bullet girls to drop by for a party and some product placement...

Oh, sorry. Even the most outrageous reality shows need to be rooted in the real world.

So here's an honest-to-God scenario: At Governor Bill Owens's urging, the Colorado Legislature scrapes together $9 million to push tourism in this cash-strapped state -- and maybe, just maybe, snag some of those visitors who canceled their trips here last summer after the governor announced that all of Colorado was burning.

But now the people who are burning are local filmmakers, passed over yet again in favor of a Florida company that's getting half a million dollars to produce a one-hour show about Colorado, shot in Colorado and paid for by the State of Colorado.

I.D.E.A.S., the company that pitched the "brandcast" concept, began filming Courage Colorado last Saturday in Denver. The shoot will stretch twelve days across thirteen locations as the crew captures the real-life Colorado adventures of a hardy family of tourists from North Carolina -- mother, father, ten kids ranging from eleven months to fifteen years old, and a nanny -- with their host Rocks and his trusty dog. This isn't The Incredible Journey, but then, I.D.E.A.S. isn't the Walt Disney Company, either, despite all the rumors to the contrary inspired by the production company's Disney-MGM Studios address. ("Walt Disney to bring reality TV to Colorado," read the headline in Tuesday's Fort Collins Coloradoan.)

"It's a reality-type show, but it's not Survivor or anything," says Kim McNulty, who's with the Colorado Office of Economic Development.

In other words, all of the family members will emerge from the wilds of Colorado.

Too bad. A little more adventure, maybe a trial separation and a couple of childish pranks, and Colorado might really be able to sell this show. Even a teen-eating bear or a case of West Nile virus would do wonders at the networks.

Courage Colorado is just one component of the campaign designed by Praco, the Colorado Springs ad agency that's been touting Colorado tourism since 2000 and whose deal with the state was renewed in April after legislators approved the tourism windfall. The first salvo in the $9 million campaign -- ads encouraging summer visits -- debuted in May; this week, the redesigned Web site (www.colorado.com) will begin hyping an Adventure Store complete with pre-packaged vacation deals for adventurous travelers. (Click on "Romantic" and you'll hit "Terminally Tickled: a guide to amenities and amusements at the Denver International Airport." Not the most romantic location that springs to mind, but, hey, if you're only going to be in Colorado long enough to change planes, make a roll in the hay while the sun shines.)

Courage Colorado will push tourism next spring.

If anyone sees it, that is. As part of its deal with Praco, I.D.E.A.S. is negotiating with cable networks that might, just might, be interested in airing the show (what, Ron Popeil hasn't locked up every spare minute of time?), as well as sponsors that might, just might, be interested in buying ads. Hmmm. After a rigorous hike in Crested Butte or cattle drive in Steamboat Springs, wouldn't Dad like a nice, frosty Coors Light? (Since The Restaurant has finished filming for the season, that Coors truck featured in just about every segment of NBC's reality show must be sitting idle.) And there's also the possibility that Colorado-bound airplanes might show Courage Colorado to their captive audiences -- although the show itself came as news to Andrew Hudson, spokesman for Frontier, Colorado's homegrown airline.

Any sales would help offset the $500,000 that the state's paying for the show's production.

"D.E.A.S. brought the idea to us of using Colorado as a main character in a network show," says Praco's Will Seccombe. The Colorado Tourism Board was looking for something new and innovative, the agency was looking for the "biggest bang" it could get for the nine million bucks, and the show looked like "a solid way of communicating Colorado."

Particularly to families from North Carolina, a hillbilly haven that may have great barbecue and an annual "Mayberry Days" festival -- but doesn't have the wonders of Red Rocks or Larimer Square or Ouray or Glenwood Springs, all locations for the shoot. "We just tried to get a variety of activities and places in Colorado that showcase the state," says McNulty.

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