For fans of the docuseries format in reality storytelling the immediate positive is the plethora of options. They are not about to diminish anytime soon. But the one ingredient often missing, the irony in the definition of the category, is the "real" in the term "reality." Here situations are not staged, excessive liftsyles are not the focus, featured families and friends happen to love and respect each other, and the stories presented are for viewers, male and female, of all ages.
This very descriptor leads us to the latest entry in the category..."Cash Cowboys" from Associated Television International (ATI).
Shades of the classic Southfork Ranch on scripted drama "Dallas" with a family focused tinge a la "The Waltons," "Life Goes On" and "Duck Dynasty" -- where family is about having each other's backs and sharing core values -- the focus of half-hour "Cash Cowboys" (currently airing on Pop TV in the Saturday morning daypart) is on four generations a Colorado-based family named Huwa.
At the center is Brent Huwa and wife Tonya, the parents to five children - Cody, Kylie, Austin, Trey and Brealynn; Brent’s brothers Corey and Tyrun; and their parents Rich and Patti as the family combines their faith to protect and save the land and their entrepreneurial spirit to run a multitude of businesses. Included are...deep breath...H2 Enterprises, Arnold's Custom Seeding, Dura Pride, Duraroot Environmental Consulting, Hanging H, Huwa Reserve, Miete Equipment, Milestone Companies, Solspec, Terra Restoration, Total Field & Environment Services, LLC and Twisted H Bucking Bulls.
A fourth Huwa brother, Kasen, is a computer engineer and takes vacation time to help with the family operation, while family patriarch Herman, 92, continues to work on the farm.
The Origins of "Cash Cowboys"
"This is something very new and different for us," said a humble Brent Huwa, who simply explains the experience of having his own show as "the stars aligning." But Elia Gourgouris, an executive producer on "Cash Cowboys," has a more specific explanation on the show's origins.
"I was hired to do executive coaching for Brent and all his leaders and after being with them for about one year I just started looking around and realized these people had all the ingredients of a great series," he said. "These are real people with absolutely no pretenses. They are down to earth with big machines and all this work, but they are also cowboys, they do rodeos, they have cattle and they are just a great, unassuming family."
"After a friend of mine by the name of Ryan Young, who works with ATI, came out for a look at this family he felt the same way I did," he added. "These are modern day cowboys changing America's land one acre at a time. And Ryan came up with name "Cash Cowboys."
The Heart of "Cash Cowboys" is About Cowboy Culture, and the Spirit of the West
"We are stewards of the land and environmentalists, we care about core family values, and our family is much bigger than just what our last name and blood is," noted Brent Huwa. "We have a huge family and we just want to be a positive part of society."
While any episode of "Cash Cowboys" might showcase the brothers, and father Rich (or patriarch Herman), working in the field, the heart of the series is the family dynamic. Particularly touching was the November 25th episode featuring oldest son Cody reciting an essay he wrote for a college scholarship application about the most inspirational person in his life, his sister Kylie.
"On June 3, 1999, the little family of three was blessed with their fourth. The doctor had told us that our newborn was good and well but she had an extra chromosome and will live with Down Syndrome for her whole life. A great sorrow was felt in those moments and, looking back, it was the greatest blessing my family had ever received. Growing up as Kylie's older brother has taught me the importance of life and relationships. It wasn't hard, or weird, for me to take Kylie by the hand and push her to do the same things."
"Many would ask what it is like to live with a person with a disability," he added. "To me, or anyone close to me, it is not what she can't do but what she does do."
”The family element, of course, it what resonates on Cash Cowboys,” noted Robert Russo, President of RNR Consulting. “It is the heart of the show. But what is also worth noting is the quality production value, which really makes you feel like you are on that ranch in Colorado.”
The Docuseries Format on the Small Screen
Groundbreaking 12-part PBS documentary “An American Family,” which offered an unprecedented vérité view of a middle class family in Santa Barbara, California in 1973, is known historically as the originator of the docuseries genre on television. But it was not until 2002 when MTV’s “The Osbournes” debuted that the value of the docuseries, albeit in a more sensationalized format, was front and center.
The name Kardashian, of course, is now synonymous with this form of reality, with the parent series, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and the endless spin-offs the current definition of cable network E! But what sets “Cash Cowboys” apart, and offers a built-in incentive, is the simplicity of the subject matter and the focus on family values.
"I think ‘Cash Cowboys’ has a commonality to the early seasons of ‘Duck Dynasty,’ where the emphasis is on the family element and the stories that educate, inspire and entertain – all those good things,” said Tim Winter, President of the Parents Television Council. The PTC is a non-partisan organization advocating responsible entertainment.
”There is research that shows an increase in the consumer recall of advertiser brands on shows that are not graphic, explicit, violent or profane,” he said. “You also have from an advertisers’ standpoint content that they feel comfortable aligning their brands with. There are economic benefits for advertisers with family friendly content both from a consumer awareness recall standpoint and brand alignment.”
"Since the viewing audience will ultimately decide on the future of 'Cash Cowboys,' I have to optimistically believe we will see many more seasons ahead," noted industry analyst Bill Carroll. “There should always be a place on television for something that stresses family values.”
Brent Huwa said it best, perhaps, at the conclusion of the episode of “Cash Cowboys” referenced to earlier where the family puts on an event for some special kids at the ranch. “Respect is one of our core values. And that is who we are,” he noted. "For people like us who have never been on camera, sometimes you don't know what to say. But what you see is who we are; you see our daily lives in action. And everything we do is set under the foundation of a family.”
For more information on "Cash Cowboys" visit http://www.cashcowboys.tv/