Places in Minnesota that should have TV shows
This week it was announced that the town of Stillwater is getting the HBO treatment. According to Deadline, True Blood producer Howie Deutch has landed a two-year development deal with the premium cable channel to develop potential dramas and comedies. One of the upcoming projects is titled Stillwater, and will follow a New York cop as he relocates to Bachmann country after his life spirals out of control in the Big Apple. Colin Farrell is also attached to the project as executive producer.
In light of this news, we thought it would be fun to consider other landmarks, businesses, and cities in Minnesota that would make for good television, be they a hilarious comedy a train wreck reality show, or a gritty drama.
The show: Prohibition
The Minnesota city or landmark: The caves, Black Forest Inn, plus major moonshine towns like Holdingford, MN.
The high-concept pitch: Imagine The Wire crossed with Boardwalk Empire
What it would be about: The Prohibition-era was a time underground crime, scandal, larger-than-life personalities, and secret drinking establishments -- all things that make for compelling television. Setting a show about this time in the Twin Cities would give viewers a front-row view to all the calamity. There's the rise of gangsters, bathtub-booze distilleries, rum runners, and the police who sought to bust them (and the ones who looked the other way). There's also the temperance movement, with suffragettes and local activist and U.S. Representative Andrew Volstead leading the way (the Volstead Act outlined how Prohibition would be carried out). Throw in the rise of jazz, and maybe a few wild party cameos featuring Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and you have a show built in an fascinating, expansive world.
The show: Casino
The Minnesota city or landmark: Mystic Lake Casino
The high concept pitch: Remember that Las Vegas casino show with Josh Duhamel? Imagine that, only funny.
What it would be about: Casinos are a business rife with potential drama, humor, and infinite story possibilities. The "very serious casino drama of excess" has been done to death, but we think setting a show in the not-so-Vegas-glam world of Minnesota could be comedy gold. This is where writers could revel in telling the stories of quirky vacationers from Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin. There's the big dreamers who hope to make some money playing black jack, the buses of old folks looking for a good time, the super-fans who are there to see some old band from the '80s, and more. The employees who run the place could also make good fodder, only we'd want them to look more like they came from Fargo, less like they're a short plane flight from Hollywood.
The show: Real Housewives of Eden Prairie
The Minnesota city or landmark: Eden Prairie
The high-concept pitch: Imagine Bravo's Real Housewives series, but with Midwestern flair.
What it would be about: Who says all the drama should belong to the ladies on the coasts? Forget New York, Bevery Hills, and Hot-lanta, the real housewives of Eden Prairie are here and ready to party. Get an inside peek at the glitzier side of the suburbs, with mani-pedis at Aveda and watching the ladies redecorate their McMansions deep inside the gated community of Bearpath. But it's not all fun and games here. The women spend their time clocking hours at the office, managing their boutiques, volunteering for local organizations, and making public appearances around town for "good causes" -- like organizing a church fashion show for middle school girls. Let's not forget the shenanigans. You'll probably see some table flipping during a night out on the town at Manny's, a drunken bachelorette party stumbling into the Saloon for one of the show's resident single ladies, and a house-warming celebration from hell. Plus, if Eden Prairie gets a Real Housewives deal, you know the ladies of Edina will be dying for a spin-off. We'd love to see those women butt heads.
The show: Minnesota Medical
The Minnesota city or landmark: The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
The high concept pitch: Think House, but less reliant on one charismatic actor to carry the show.
What it would be about: At any given point in time, hospital dramas are a dime a dozen. But have you ever noticed that they are almost always set on the East Coast? Yet one of the best hospitals in the country is right here in Minnesota. The show could follow a fictional team of doctors in different fields as they attempt to crack some of the worst, most unusual, and horrifying cases. Some episodes could be topical, others could be gross-out fests, and there are endless possibilities for poignant moments or dramatic downers.
The show: I Need a Hero
The Minnesota city or landmark: Galactic Pizza
The high concept pitch: Kinda like Reno 911, only with pizza
What it would be about: Ask anyone who has ever worked in pizza delivery, and they will tell you a few wild experiences they had either getting a pizza to a destination or interacting with a hungry pie eater. The show could be shot faux documentary-style, with interviews from costumed pizza deliverers. Then a "camera-guy" could follow the delivery dude as he makes his way through the dark night delivering pizzas to paranoid stoners, late-shift workers, all-night video-game players, and desperately hungry pregnant women. Comedy gold!
The show: In Treatment
The Minnesota city or landmark: Hazelden
The high concept pitch: Think Intervention, only without exploiting an actual addict for ratings
What it would be about: Addiction is an often misunderstood affliction, and frankly, most depictions of it on television can be pretty ridiculous and superficial, glossing over the treatment in a five-second update report. Setting a program in a treatment center like Hazelden would force the focus to be about the work that actually goes into recovery. To bring the world of treatment to TV, we would suggest a Skins-like approach: Hire a cast of actors to play various addicts in crisis and follow them as they work through the process of recovery. There could be flashbacks, but following people in the moment as they make major changes would be key. Each season, a new cast of characters could be brought in, with some characters from previous seasons remaining.
The show: Glensheen Manor
The Minnesota city or landmark: Glensheen Mansion in Duluth
The high-concept pitch: Think Downton Abbey, but with the mining magnates of the North Shore.
What it would be about: The year is 1908, and the three years of construction on the soon-to-be famed Glensheen Mansion is almost completed. Businessman and lawyer Chester Adgate Congdon recently moved his wife and six children into the unfinished mansion on the shores of Lake Superior, and they're adjusting to their lavish surroundings while gearing up for what will be the most sumptuous house-warming party Duluth has ever seen. The next year, Congdon joins the Minnesota House of Representatives and carries with him the prestige and the problems of political life. You can bet that with a house that's got nearly 40 rooms that there'll be a staff of servants waiting on the Congdons hand and foot while they dream of ascending the social ladder themselves. Imagine stunning vistas and shots of Lake Superior's waves crashing on the rocks as the family looks wistfully out onto the great snow-covered grounds from the comfort of their ultra-bourgeois life.
The show: Reservation
The Minnesota city or landmark: Mille Lacs, White Earth, Red Lake, Fond du Lac
The high concept pitch: Follow a year in the life of the people who live on a reservation
What it would be about: Small-town personalities and conflicts can make for compelling stuff, and we suspect that following people living on a reservation would be similarly interesting. This yearlong documentary would explore the day-to-day lives of the people living there. It would be an opportunity to examine and bring light to some of the conflicts and challenges that Native Americans living on a reservation face economically, politically, socially, and culturally first-hand, while allowing people to share their stories, perspectives, and thoughts on issues the media doesn't necessarily discuss.
The show: Little House
The Minnesota city or landmark: Walnut Grove
The high-concept pitch: 1900 House meets Little House on the Prairie
What it would be about: Years ago, PBS made reality television educational as they brought adventurous, reenactment-loving families into homes recreated to be exactly as they were during the past. This time, they're taking one family to the banks of Plum Creek, where Laura Ingalls Wilder based her third book in the Little House series. There, the family will learn how to survive the volatile Minnesota weather and wilderness in their little dugout near the creek. They'll also have crops and horses to keep them busy before they begin to build a real house (no power tools here, though!) to live in while the kids go to a one-room schoolhouse in town. Every day tasks will include washing clothes with lye and making sure there's enough firewood and salt-cured fish to last the harsh winter, so this family has their work cut out for them. Suddenly the rose-colored world of Laura Ingalls Wilder will transform into a true-grit reality for the family and viewers alike.
The show: Purple Rain: The Next Generation
The Minnesota city or landmark: First Avenue
The high-concept pitch: Think Skins meets Purple Rain with a dash of Glee
What it would be about: The Kid and Apollonia have... a kid. She's just as you'd imagine the offspring of that famous '80s movie couple: a wild child, a rebel without a cause in the big city of Minneapolis. Follow her as she navigates the pressures of growing up in the spotlight -- and in her father's shadow -- while going to school, partying, and trying to get her own record together. She grows up in the wings of First Avenue, knowing the place inside and out like the back of her hand. Viewers will get a taste of that as she hangs out and does her homework there after school, and then sneaks back in after the club closes to let her friends in and rage the night away. By the time we meet the Kid's kid ("Princess," anyone?), she's in her teens and coming of age during the grunge-filled early '90s, but she's still got a sweet spot for her dad's old clothes and his guitar. It's the royal family of rock in the greatest club on earth -- what could make for better television?
The Minnesota city or landmark: Northfield
The high-concept pitch: Imagine the grit and grime of HBO's Deadwood
What it would be about: It's the 1870s, and the infamous James-Younger Gang is riding up through the Midwest, tailed by Pinkerton agents and trying to settle a score. They see a big opportunity strike it rich in Minnesota by robbing a bank, and they start scoping out the First National Bank of Northfield for soft spots. Meanwhile, the townsfolk find out what's up, and they're determined to stop Jesse James and his band of robbers at any cost -- even death. Like on Deadwood, you pretty much know how the story ends, but the best part of old westerns isn't the destination: the larger-than-life characters and the journey carry this tale off into the sunset.
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