Badgers men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan has built buzz for himself and the Wisconsin program when online videos featuring him performing the "Hambone" and "Soulja Boy" slam dunked over the last year, but these aren't the only instances where he has stepped into the world of non-sports entertainment.
Ryan is also the producer of a trailer for Geeks From Space, a proposed reality TV series that was created by Megan Kaiser and Quintin Strack. Both graduates of UW-Madison, they have been immersed in the world of reality TV in recent years.
"After I finished graduate school at Purdue University, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my acting career," says Kaiser. "To pay the bills, I worked as a casting producer and producer on several reality shows." These included Three Wishes on NBC, Cold Turkey on PAX, and Psychic At Large on Sci-Fi, as well as Ex-Wives Club and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC. Strack, meanwhile, is currently the casting director for the home design show.
The two have also collaborated on ideas for other reality shows through their production company Q-Meg Productions, their favorite being a science fiction concept title Geeks From Space. A ten-episode series that explores "the imagined future of everyman as astronaut" and "the imagined dream of every sci-fi fan" to live in the world of their dreams, the one-hour show would follow a group of contestants competing in living inside a mock spacecraft for 30 days. The prize? A trip to space.
"It's really the first show where people are competing for something they've dreamed about since they were little kids," explains Kaiser. "We're not making fun of 'geeks,' we're embracing their spirit and having fun with them. The challenges consist of anything from fun, goofy -- geeks out of their element type stuff, to reenacting challenging scenes from sci-fi movies, to actual space training challenges." The show would also feature sci-fi guest stars/judges and a live TV finale.
"We thought it would be easier to pitch the idea to network execs if we had a visual aid," says Kaiser, so they created a trailer. That's where Bo Ryan comes in. When the Badgers traveled to L.A. back in November 2004 for a Thanksgiving weekend game against Pepperdine, Kaiser and Strack pitched their idea to the coach to see if he would be interested in funding a trailer. "He liked it enough to put us in touch with his lawyer," she says, "and we set up a contract and he funded our project." (This connection immediately preceded the founding of the Hollywood Badgers, a group that provides networking for UW-Madison alumni active in the entertainment industry.)
Q-Meg has since pitched Geeks From Space to Sci-Fi, Bravo, Spike TV, NBC, CBS, and others. "So far, every network has loved our show, but for one reason or another, has yet to make us an offer," says Kaiser. She moved back to Madison in July and currently works as a freelance producer for John Roach Projects.
The show concept certainly remains for sale, though. Their pitch trailer for the reality TV series follows, complete with a Peter Schilling soundtrack.
Kaiser (who plays "the goth girl who gets booted off") explains that the trailer was directed by Darren Ewing, with additional work in producing and directing by Tate Taylor and Brunson Green. It also features performances by Octavia Spencer (from Halfway Home on Comedy Central), Dee Wallace (the mom on E.T. and recently seen on My Name Is Earl and Sons & Daughters), and David Daskal (from season two of Average Joe). The narration, meanwhile, was provided by the instantly familiar voice of Jonathan Cook, he of the deep timbre that accompanies countless promos and trailers on your screens.
Q-Meg Productions has an agreement, says Kaiser, with an extraterrestrial tourism company named Space Adventures, which sells astronaut training, zero-gravity flights in the atmosphere, and bonafide stints in orbit. Founded in the late '90s, the company delivered the first space tourist in history to the International Space Station in 2001, and has sent four others, with two more slated in 2008. Its future plans include the development of the Explorer suborbital spaceplane, optional spacewalks, private spaceports near Dubai and Singapore, and flights around the far side of the Moon. "They are willing to partner with us when the show sells and will provide many challenges and the ultimate prize," says Kaiser, "a trip to the edge of space."
That's quite a prize, one that's as different from the simple $1 mil jackpot as the proposed show looks to be from many other reality series. Considering the bump in these programs that's expected in wake of the writers' strike, perhaps there's more space for this series featuring geeks to get launched now.