SBJ/January 9 - 15, 2006/Other News

Hopes of new reality show ride on Professional Bull Riders

Tom Rogan had never heard of the Professional Bull Riders before he saw a newspaper article about how hard Dr. Tandy Freeman, the PBR’s chief physician, has to work every week to keep the riders healthy enough to ride. That story sparked an idea, though, and late in 2004 Authentic Entertainment, a Los Angeles production company that Rogan co-founded in 2000, began planning a show called “Dr. Rodeo.”

“Beyond the Bull” follows riders
Brendon Clark (left), Adriano Moraes and J.W. Hart.

Happily for Rogan, Pro Bull Riders CEO Randy Bernard was already looking for a way to get his sport into reality TV. One phone call was all it took to get the access that Authentic Entertainment needed.

The idea has changed a bit since then. Rogan and Lauren Lexton, his co-founder and partner in Authentic Entertainment, decided early on that focusing solely on the doctor wouldn’t provide enough dramatic energy to carry a show.

Instead, “Beyond the Bull,” a series of 10 weekly hourlong episodes that debuts Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on cable network TLC, features three of the PBR’s top riders, with strong supporting roles played by Freeman and the riders’ significant others.

Fresh from a meeting last week with the architects of the PBR’s new headquarters, which will open a little more than a year from now when the company moves its offices from Colorado Springs to Pueblo, Colo., Bernard said he could tell that the new series was getting the attention of people who were not already fans of the sport. PBR television programming has heretofore consisted almost entirely of event coverage carried mostly on OLN, with a few dates on NBC. Having a show on Discovery Communications’ TLC network means to Bernard exposure to a new demographic. “Our architects might not have ever watched OLN,” he said, “but they had all heard about our show coming up on TLC.”

Rogan, whose company has produced hundreds of hours of programming for networks as varied as Travel Channel, Bravo and Comedy Central, said TLC’s viewers could be broadly described as being in their early 30s, with slightly more women than men. “The general audience that watches TLC probably wouldn’t watch a bull-riding event,” he said, “but if you get them involved in the sport through good stories, they’re more likely to continue to follow it.”

The riders at the center of the show were selected after a production crew interviewed most of the 40 or so men who compete in the PBR’s top-level Built Ford Tough Series. Bernard said every viewer can find something to love in at least one of the three. Brazilian veteran Adriano Moraes, who is also a PBR board member, is a “super diva, two-time world champion, very Christian,” Bernard said. Rider J.W. Hart, Bernard said, is a “complete Southern, country-boy redneck, full of piss and vinegar and hell,” while Australian Brendon Clark is a “cocky wildman” who could probably star in some other extreme sport if he wasn’t already a pro bull rider.

TLC has placed “Beyond the Bull” on its best night, Rogan said, leading into one of its most popular shows, “Miami Ink,” a reality series based in a South Beach tattoo parlor that airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. If “Beyond the Bull” is successful, Authentic Entertainment will start work on season two. The company’s contract with the PBR, ratings permitting, runs for two more seasons.

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