“A$PEN the Series™” began as the vision of Aspen local creator and producer, Greg Simmons, through Simmons being a patron of the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen over the eleven years HBO hosted the festival in Aspen. Inspired by shows by people such as Barry Levinson, Robin Williams, American Graffiti, In Living Color, the Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin, and the Comedy Arts Festival theme, “Amendment 1, Freedom of Speech and Comedy,” Simmons thought, “this Comedy Festival has been going on in Aspen for years, and nobody has been doing a comedy about life in Aspen. This is my calling card. Why not a local create a comedy about life in Aspen and premiere it at the festival?”
The idea behind creating the show was to do so by holding close to what Simmons had learned and had been inspired by, as a patron of the festival from past years. He started out years back by doing seventeen hours of video interviews, asking locals and visitors alike compelling questions trying to draw out the comic culture of Aspen; “What’s it like being you and living and or visiting in Aspen? What’s your craziest or funniest Aspen story? What’s the craziest place you’ve had sex in Aspen?…”From here, he was hell bent and determined to have a writers’ work shop with comedians included to create a treatment and script for a pilot to a show. People in the industry told him he was nuts, and that it doesn’t get done this way. After plenty of rejection, he was finally able to put his workshop together which included multiple treatments and drafts of a pilot. Finally, he got his first polished pilot script.
Simmons submitted this script for the comedy festival for a reading, but HBO passed.
After lots of smoodging and working with many entertainment attorneys, the last then being Gary Walters, he got connected to a name writer, Larry Levy, who did a rewrite of the pilot. Larry is a two-time Emmy nominated and a WGA award winning writer from Seinfeld who wrote the Mango episode.
Determined to fulfill his goal to premiere his show during the Comedy Festival in Aspen, he cast it in L.A. and produced a live stage read of the full 30 minute pilot at the Double Diamond, consisting of three shows. The shows were directed by three time Cleo Award winning director, Brent Loefke.
One interesting comment he has is, “the process of putting on a live show certainly gives me an appreciation of what HBO does by putting on the whole Comedy Festival, including live and film shows, absolutely extraordinary.”
The idea behind the show was to create a cast of characters that is organically rooted in Aspen, not just from a local cool perspective but from the jet set world perspective: glamorous, glitzy, sexy, exciting and fun. Then to make the characters interact in a compelling but funny way, like in Friends. He says “most of what is entertaining and funny about life in Aspen is adult in nature. Therefore, the show should be adult in nature, like Sex In The City. He is hoping that by pushing the envelope in creativity in the way the show was created and bending the rules on traditional formats (sitcom, drama, dramedy, half hour, one hour, reality, scripted, sport, arts, etc…) something really unique and extraordinary might be developed here with Aspen the Series.
Aspen the Series has been well received, is moving forward and breaking new ground,” said Simmons. “We were happy to be present once again during the comedy festival. We hosted two shows nightly at the Caribou Club. March 3rd, 4th, and 5th, during the festival. The shows included a pitch, a screening of the work in progress, a live stage reading of the pilot “Only in Aspen,” dance performances by the Las Vegas knockout dance troupe The Vamps – who performed as the Aspen the Series, Fly High Girls – and an appearance by hip hop artist Casanova Ace. We were also pleased with the local support from Aspen’s local Grass Roots television station, Channel 12, who aired the work in progress pilot throughout the duration of the festival.”
After having produced and performed in the above six live shows at the Aspen Comedy Fest, Simmons still was not able to get a deal for ASPEN with a network. “What do I do next?” he thought. Those same live shows gave him the inspiration and the idea to create a reality show about the creation of A$PEN. After all, reality shows are easier to get on the air than a scripted comedy, hence the birth of Creating America’s Next Hit Television Show (Next Hit Show®). Next Hit Show is an interactive reality series showcasing the creation of A$PEN the Series.
Next Hit Show aired weekly for six weeks on two major cable networks, Comedy Central and Spike (80 million homes each). Simmons argues that it is the most interactive television format ever aired world wide. Why? The first three episodes of Next Hit Show was dedicated to a casting competition where three different groups of actors performed ten scenes from the A$PEN pilot. The show asked the national audience to participate by asking them to go on line to www.aspentheseries.com and vote as to their level of likeness as to the actors performance, premise, the story lines, the gag lines, the character development, sets, wardrobe, etc. When an audience participant submitted their survey, they would receive a lottery number, hence becoming a contestant in the reality show from their own home. Simmons says it’s a national consciousness about creating America’s next hit television show, A$PEN the Series. A$PEN is literally a hybrid cutting edge show. Supermodel, January Beck, gives her investment banker of the year boyfriend, Walter Montgomery – the man who has everything – his own reality show for his fortieth birthday and early retirement present in the pilot, Only in Aspen! It’s a sitcom or dramedy about not only creating and living in a reality show, but also about life and living the Aspen high lifestyle.
One of the participants, Macy Hartman, a twenty two year old sexy internet streaming entrepreneur, will continue running her business first out of the privacy of her bedroom in the Montgomery Mansion, and then by secretly planting web cams around other rooms in the house. Who knows whether the web cam business and the reality show will dove tail or crash into one another…?
This is a cable, network, or production company’s dream for a racy, satirical, fresh and edgy show with which a comic writing team can have an absolute field day!
Simmons says that many Aspen locals and visitors have heard of the news stories stating that A&E Network was to do a reality show called “ASPEN,” and VH1 produced and aired Secrets of Aspen. Simmons states that many people he has talked to since those shows or almost shows came out, thought that that they were his. They were not. They’re competitors!
Simmons’ show has many years of development behind it as summarized in this release. During the years, the pilot has been written and rewritten many, many times by multiple writers. A second episodes has been written and rewritten multiple times and two more episodes have been written after that. The show has been cast five times and the material has been directed by four different directors, produced live and aired locally and nationally. Simmons says, ‘we have been getting feedback all the way along this “rollercoaster ride.” Originally when we produced our first live shows, the reception was luke warm at best. Now it seems that people really love the show.” By staying with this project, showing the materials to a lot of people and listening to their feedback, we have been able to develop our characters and plot by what works and what doesn’t. This project has been piloted more than most TV shows.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often,” says Simmons. “I am committed to this project, I have shown the material to multiple and varied markets and I listen very carefully to all feedback which better helps me to understand what is working and what is not!” laughs Simmons. “I believe that the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he/she wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Simmons continues to move forward without a deal from a major network or cable company, because as Simmons says, “all excellent things are as difficult as they are rare, but Hollywood has expressed great interest and I know that a deal is just around the corner!” The show has been cut and released into twenty-eight 90 second webisodes where extreme sports meets a sexy comedy combined with the glitz of ENTOURAGE, the fashion of UGLY BETTY and the bizarre entanglements of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.
Celebrity attachments that we have accomplished thus far included in our webisodes are: Paris Hilton, Carmen Electra, Tracy Bingham, Gisele, Won-G (#1 underground hip hp artist), Cassandra Lynn (Playmate), Tamara Whitmer, (Playmate), Tina Gordon (Playmate), Carrie Stroupe (Ms. America & Teen USA), Ashley Smith (Ms. Hooters International & Ms. Hawaiin tropics International), & Bode Miller (the 2008 World Alpine Skiing Champion).