The worlds of big-time football, ESPN, country music, Hollywood-style production and great American comedy came together Thursday (Aug. 14) in an unlikely setting—The Inn at Mount Pleasant, a classic 18th-century farm property in a rural part of Torrington near the University of Connecticut regional campus.
To film a music video that will serve as the new intro for“Colin’s New Football Show,” the offbeat pre-pregame show of ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd (below). The show airs Sundays at 9 a.m. on ESPN2 (starting Sept. 7 this season), features highlights, fantasy, interviews and commentary, and is broadcast from a set “designed as a kitchen and living room.”
Cowherd, according to Connecticut-based ESPN, has hosted “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio since 2004. His spinoff hour-long TV show debuted in September 2013, and on it Cowherd offers “his unique view on a timely football story,” while taking on college and professional football.
“Colin’s New Football Show will be entirely from Colin’s perspective,” Jamie Horowitz, vice president, original programming and production, said in announcing the show when it launched. “It’s a cool and alternative pregame show with Colin, a football outsider on the inside, letting fans know the key stories of the day in his own style.”
(Below, Rodney Carrington, who stars in the new ESPN intro, performs during the Bud Light Presents Wild West Comedy Festival featuring Rodney Carrington at TPAC Jackson Theater on May 18, 2014 in Nashville. Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for Bud Light.)
“This won’t be your typical pregame show because I’m hosting it and I’ve never played in the league and I don’t even know that many people who did play in the league,” Cowherd said at the time. “We know what we are, and what we’re not. And we’re not going to take ourselves too seriously. The show is me and smart, funny guys hopefully coming on the show and making it better. I’m really excited for it.”
(That approach doesn’t always draw unanimous approval, one example being a blogger criticizing Cowherd for his take on the Tony Stewart-Kevin Ward NASCAR tragedy.)
Performing the song in the new show intro is comedian and Nashville performing artist Rodney Carrington (also an actor and writer), whose credits include eight major record label comedy albums, including the gold “Morning Wood” and the platinum “Greatest Hits.”
Carrington had his own TV sitcom, “Rodney,” for two seasons on ABC, and, his bio says, he also co-wrote and co-starred with Toby Keith in the feature film “Beer for My Horses.” You might have seen him on the “American Country Awards” or hosting the “American Country New Year’s Eve Live” show on FOX.
He’s been among the top five grossing touring comedians in the last several years, his bio says, and he performs to sold-out crowds in the U.S. and Canada.
On Thursday morning, Carrington was in the fully-staged barn at The Inn at Mount Pleasant(above; Connecticut Magazine photo), joined by other musicians, dancers and the filming crew, shooting different takes of an original song—professionally recorded by Carrington Tuesday in Nashville—that will result in a 90-second video after editing.
ESPN creative staff on site didn’t want to give too much away about the song—look for it to splash on ESPN social media in advance of the Sept. 7 TV debut—but explained that it contains lots of jokes that point to the fact that Cowherd’s take on football is offbeat, and that a show broadcast from a “basement” at the ESPN campus in Bristol isn’t on the same radar budget-wise as other NFL and college football programs.
So the intro pokes fun at that, while the “all-American” song and the rural farm setting of the video also appeal to a core pregame football demographic. In addition to the scenes of Carrington performing in a barn—dressed up to look like a rustic country music venue—other scenes were wrapping in a weather-worn old tractor (below; Connecticut Magazine photo), some goats, and furniture that had seen better days set up in the field, in front of old-fashioned TVs stacked up in a retro assemblage.
Masterminding the Torrington shoot wasMatt Brady of MRB Productions, which is based in Hollywood and was contracted by ESPN for the project.
Brady, who grew up in Madison, Conn., says there was a push to film the new intro in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but he pushed to have the project happen in Connecticut. MRB scouted for the right property and The Inn at Mount Pleasantmade the cut.
Owned by Bob Bombardieri and Maggie Dwan, the completely remodeled inn (below)features lovely common areas and four guest rooms, each with a queen bed and private bathroom. Guests can access hiking and mountain biking trails leading to Nickel Brook Creek—a little known side of Torrington.
The filming, Brady says, involves about 75 people in all, 95 percent of whom are from Connecticut, a fact that made him very proud. (One of those people is Tove Vigen, the owner of Tova’s Vintage Shop in Old Saybrook, which is providing the outfits for the video filming.)
“We love being here. It’s so fun … a little bit of Hollywood in Torrington. It’s just a very pleasant place to film [and] it’s a nice little way to boost the economy.”
Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone was scheduled to stop by the shooting with JoAnn Ryan, President & CEO of the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and other dignitaries.
Brady (below right; Connecticut Magazine photo) left Madison in 1996 for college, went to Hollywood for a summer, fell under the spell of the bright lights and launched MRB Productions in 2001. It’s been growing every year since then, and does work for movies, TV and commercials.
MRB’s most recent feature, “The Truth about Emanuel” was in competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and stars Jessica Biel, the production company’s website explains.
For TV, MRB has produced pre-taped segments and other programming for ESPN’s ESPY Awards, in addition to producing the Hero Dog Awards for the Hallmark Channel. “Additional TV projects include two seasons of the mockumentary comedy show Free Radio on VH1 and Comedy Central and the Webby award winning series The Confession, starring Kiefer Sutherland,” the website says.
Tune into ESPN starting Sept. 7 to see a rural part of northwestern Connecticut make the bright-lights bigtime as the backdrop for a warmup act to the gridiron action that makes the world go around.