13th and Pearl: A sitcom based in Denver? Why the hell not?

Chris Graves
Chris Graves

Film producer Chris Graves, who also runs Bardo Coffee House on South Broadway, first thought up the idea for his new Denver-based sitcom pilot, 13th and Pearl, fifteen years ago. "I used to hang out around 13th and Pearl back in the day, in the mid-90s, and I thought it would make an interesting idea for comedy," he explains. "There were so many interesting people and independent businesses around there back then." He pitched it to Starz, but the time wasn't right, and it slipped back into the primeval goo of unrealized pop-cultural pipe dreams.

"Now," he continues, "more networks are doing their own programming, so I resurrected the idea and made the pilot. And I think it has a lot more potential, now. Television production is less centralized. Certain people are looking for something with a little bit of a different perspective, something that they've never seen before." He hooked up with a film-school buddy, Darin Foat, hired some actors, and together, they brought the old idea to modern fruition.

The characters of "13th and Pearl."
The characters of "13th and Pearl."

How does that work, now that it's a done deal? "The Denver flavor really comes out," he says. "We're all used to it because we live here, but Denver definitely has its own flavor." And, we ask, that is? "I couldn't describe it. It's just there." Like Portlandia -- the IFC series shot in Portland about people living in Portland -- 13th and Pearl suggests something offbeat and freshly local in scope. "Portlandia," Graves notes, "is one of those shows that are breaking ground for people like us. Now, the opportunity is more of an open book for us." To that end, the show's been entered in the 2011 New York Television Festival, and Graves says he's put out some feelers elsewhere. But right now, it's "wait and see."  

"13th and Pearl." Not. But this Pearl Street set still looks familiar.
"13th and Pearl." Not. But this Pearl Street set still looks familiar.

In the meantime, you can see the 13th and Pearl pilot when it premieres Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway. Here's the trailer:

Interest piqued? Though fictionalized, the storyline does revolve around denizens of deepest Capitol Hill: a group of small-business owners dealing with a threatening change when their landlord dies and the big-ideas son takes over. It's a culture clash about to happen, and there's bound to be something funny about that.

13th and Pearl: A sitcom based in Denver? Why the hell not?

Along with a host of local talent and guest appearances by local businesses and music, the pilot stars Hollywood actresses Christine Elise McCarthy (the original Beverly Hills 90210) and Shelly Cole (The Gilmore Girls). Cole, Graves, Foat and several members of of the local cast and crew will be there in person to answer questions after the screening, which also includes a selection of shorts. Admission is a $5 donation to Food Bank of the Rockies (or bring a non-perishable food item); get further deets at the Facebook event page.

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