As Mork from the planet Ork might put it, say na-nu na-nu to “That’s So Boulder!”
Boulder’s most memorable time in the television spotlight came via the popular late 1970s/early ’80s sitcom “Mork & Mindy,” about an alien played by the late Robin Williams who lands in Boulder — as imagined by Hollywood — and ends up living with Mindy McConnell, portrayed by Pam Dawber. Mork spent four television seasons learning the ways of earthlings, or at least Boulderized versions thereof, before marrying Mindy and seeing his show launched into the purgatory of late-night syndication.
Now, for an era where television shows appear on “platforms” more often than that’s-so-yesterday-networks, Phoenix-based GCM Media and J2 Media aim to put Boulder and all its eccentricities before the world’s overworked eyeballs once again.
Get ready for “That’s So Boulder!,” a six-episode comedy series planned to debut for a new generation of viewers in summer 2020.
Showrunner Tray Goodman — who co-owns GCM Media with his son, Mark Goodman — and executive producer Jason Heinkel, owner of J2Media, have been in town over recent days meeting with Boulderites of every stripe. Their objective has been to study the cultural terrain and brainstorm ideas for the series, scheduled to be cast this fall and shot next spring.
“I think the timing is right, right now, for Boulder,” Goodman said in one such gathering at Trident Booksellers and Cafe just a few blocks from the Pearl Street Mall. “I actually don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet.”
Goodman has found those he has spoken to about Boulder’s upcoming return to the spotlight to be very enthusiastic.
“Actually, I was just surprised at how people were so welcoming and wanting to give me story ideas — ‘Oh my God, let me tell you something funny,’” he said. “People are super nice here, and they have been nice to me. Everyone acted like they had plenty of time for me. It’s been great.”
Goodman credits his son, Mark Goodman, who is pitching coach for the Boulder Collegians baseball team, for planting the seed of the idea with him. He envisions a show very much in the spirit of “Portlandia.”
“He came up with the concept,” Tray Goodman said of his son. “He was telling me how wacky the town was. He’s been working with me, off and on. He’s listed as a co-creator on the project. He’s the one who sparked my interest and gave me a list of things I should look into.”
Unlike “Mork and Mindy,” which featured only limited exteriors actually filmed in Boulder, Goodman hopes much of his show will actually be shot here.
Like someone painting your portrait
The show is assured placement on a streaming platform, Goodman said, although no announcement on where “That’s So Boulder” will appear has yet been made. Funding for the enterprise also is still being nailed down.
“Right now we have Phoenix funding,” said Goodman, an Oklahoma native now living in Arizona. “We have investors we can always draw from. But we’re talking to people up here, to see if they want to bump some Phoenix people out and put some Boulder money in. I would really rather have some Boulder money put into it.”
Among those Goodman has met with is John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber.
“I think that every good serious community should be able to laugh at itself and have a little fun,” Tayer said. “And we have a lot of, I’d say, unique quirkiness that is both indicative of our values, but also our innovation, creativity and at times, just plain silliness.”
Asked whether he had reservations about how this community might be portrayed to the world outside the figurative Boulder “bubble,” Tayer conceded, “You’re anxious, just like when someone is going to paint your portrait.”
Tayer also said, “The stories are legion of areas where Boulder led the country, and people laughed at us until they ended up realizing, wow, we are doing things that they want to emulate. … But if we can’t laugh at ourselves sometimes, then we’re not human.”
Material about the show’s potential content that is already in the public domain, such as that shown on its Facebook page, give a flavor of what might — or might not — be dished up to a national audience.
Reference is made there to “a group of friends living in Boulder, who on the surface appear to be your average group looking for conversation and coffee at their local hangout.
“The hangout is owned and operated by Margaret, the granddaughter of a 19th century Denver goldmining baron. Although Margaret plays a good game of being a rich hippy Boulderite,” she in fact “holds tightly, very tightly, to the fact that secretly she is a closet dominatrix.”
Goodman said all such material is, at this point, merely “placeholder,” and very much subject to change.
Whether the show proves to have legs or not, Goodman and his partners have another base already well covered. They have trademarked “That’s So Boulder!” for the purpose of merchandising, with dog clothes emblazoned with “I’m So Boulder!”, along with magnets, keychains, hats, clothing, beer steins, and more proclaiming “That’s So Boulder.” Those should be publicly available within just a few weeks.
“Those are two separate things. The show is a separate LLC (from the merchandising LLC), and the trademarks are separate,” Goodman said. “Boulder is not going anywhere. And that’s a saying we love.”
Dan Caruso, founder, president and CEO of Boulder’s Zayo Group, facilitated meetings for Goodman’s team over recent days. He put them in the same room as 20-something Boulder natives who work at Zayo and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, 40-somethings employed at companies such as the cannabis business accelerator CanopyBoulder, and more senior observers and players on the Boulder scene such as Boulder City Councilman Bob Yates and Daily Camera publisher Al Manzi. They were given introductions as well to people at buzzworthy venues such as Shinesty, TechStars and Rayback Collective.
“I think they saw a lot and learned a lot and I think heard from a lot of very interesting people, and I think if they capture that, Boulder will be portrayed in an interesting way,” Caruso said.
Given that the venture is envisioned very much as comedy, and that with comedy there must be something to laugh at, Caruso acknowledged it is yet to be determined whether the end product is something with which longtime community members might be happy. But he’s optimistic.
“Nobody talked about the zaniness or craziness in a way that was disrespectful,” said Caruso, who sat in on about half the production team’s meetings.
“There’s a camaraderie that cuts across” different factions in the Boulder community, he said. “That is what people were saying — ‘Yeah, it’s kind of crazy, but that’s who we are. That’s what makes it an interesting place to live.’ You don’t get people judging each other or being divisive with each other, even though there is wide a wide range of differences.”
Goodman acknowledged a level of inspiration derived from the man from Ork, who came to Boulder from far away, when it was not quite the fashionable destination it has since become (and where visitors still occasionally drive past the Pine Street house used for exterior shots of Mork and Mindy’s home).
“I think ‘Mork and Mindy’ made Boulder look like a great place,” Goodman said. “That’s what we hope to show it off as — a unique place you should probably visit one day. I’m not telling you to move here. But I recommend it to all my friends. I always have.”
To learn more
People can follow “That’s So Boulder!” on Facebook at @ThatsSoBoulder
Those interested to learn about casting for the show and more can contact Tray Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org