Between Colorado’s impressive natural offerings, story-worthy historical legacy, and increasing visibility in modern popular culture, the state continues to be the setting for all manner of television shows. Many are what you’d expect and ones you’ve heard of, but some shows that have been based in the Centennial State over the years might surprise you.
From a sitcom dreamed up by beloved local comedians to a cult sci-fi favorite, the following is a list of the most notable television shows that have been based in Colorado.
Here are the TV shows set in Colorado, in no particular order:
A fan-favorite from the Stargate sci-fi action franchise, SG-1 debuted on Showtime in 1997 before moving to the Sci Fi Channel in 2002. The series follows a special operations team from the US Air Force who travels the galaxy and defends Earth from alien threats. The show’s themes are inspired by mythology from ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Norse cultures.
While much of the action of this show takes place in surreal and imagined locations set throughout the galaxy, Colorado plays a big role as well. A top-secret Air Force base located deep within the underground Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado Springs houses an ancient alien portal known as the Stargate, which is how the show’s characters are able to transport themselves through space. The show wrapped up in 2007, but SG-1 remains a much loved staple within sci-fi communities and has helped sustain and intensify popular culture’s fascination with the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.
From the sprawling, windswept landscapes of the San Luis Valley to the unassuming eastern plains, Colorado has been the backdrop for many western-themed TV shows and movies since the mid-19th century. Alongside True Grit and Slow West, 2017’s Godless is part of a recent cinematic trend that adorns the classic genre with modern production treatments and fascinating character interpretations.
Starring Jeff Daniels, Jack O’Connell, and Michelle Dockery, the miniseries received praise from critics, and earned spots on the year’s top-ten lists from The Washington Post and Vanity Fair. The first episode begins in Creede, Colorado, before the action moves south to the historical town of La Belle located in Taos County, New Mexico. An antithesis to one-dimensional western flicks fronted by John Wayne, fans and critics loved Godless for its strong female leads and complex characters.
Originally aired on NBC, Community falls into the category of shows that are set in Colorado but have essentially nothing to do with the state. Led by an ensemble cast featuring Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, and the controversial Chevy Chase, Community takes place at a community college in the fictional town of Greendale, Colorado. The sitcom comedy satirizes pop-culture cliches and draws from show creator Dan Harmon’s real life experiences attending a community college.
The Real World: Denver
LoDo has transformed in some profound and indelible ways since The Real World: Denver debuted in 2006. Its skyline has become crowded with chic condos and tall office buildings as evidence that the Denver neighborhood has increasingly become a fashionable, sought-after place to live and work in over the years.
Today, Denver natives can look back to season 18 of The Real World for a heavy dose of local nostalgia. Sure, the MTV reality show that spent a season in LoDo was already threadbare by the mid 2000’s, but it’s a perfect way to look back at what modern Denver was like right before everything changed.
For the uninitiated, The Real World follows diverse and unacquainted groups of twenty-somethings who live together in different cities. Hookups and drunk yelling abound. In the 28-episode series, cast members wine and dine at local Denver bars and restaurants, adventure in nearby mountain terrains, and make out in hot tubs. It’s vapid and predictable, and could be considered a harbinger of the party culture that defines much of LoDo today 14 years later.
When it comes to Colorado’s society-shaping cultural offerings, few match the potency of South Park, an animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Initially known for its jarring brand of crass humor, Parker and Stone slowly developed the fictional town of South Park, Colorado into a savvy satirization vehicle that cleverly examines everything from the personal lives of celebrities and politicians, to things specific to Colorado like Denver’s rampant gentrification and Casa Bonita.
South Park takes the culture-exploding humor of animated comedies like The Simpsons and stretches it to an extreme viewers became increasingly accustomed to throughout the early 2000’s in Colorado and beyond. When technology allowed the show’s creators to produce episodes more quickly, South Park became famous for its ability to satirize current events at breakneck speed and virtually in real-time. Fans and critics alike praise the show for its evenhandedness in its indiscriminate and brutal takedowns of universally known figures, cultural attitudes, political affiliations, places, and events.
Mork & Mindy
Featuring the late and beloved comedic actor Robin Williams, Mork & Mindy was a spinoff sitcom based on an episode of Happy Days. Set in 1970’s Boulder, Colorado, the show is about an alien named Mork sent to Earth to observe human life. Humor isn’t allowed on Mork’s home planet, which is another reason the absurdly lovable being is kicked sent away from home to study humans Colorado.
Mork soon meets Mindy, who mistakes him for a priest because of his willingness to listen to her talk about being upset with her boyfriend. After eventually revealing his identity, Mindy offers to house him in her attic and keep his secret. The show’s humor is largely based off of Mork’s attempts to understand and assimilate to life on Earth and American culture in particular.
Those Who Can’t
Premiered by truTV in 2016, Those Who Can’t was a comedy created by Colorado comedians Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, and Ben Roy. Set in a fictional Denver high-school, the series follows three inept teachers who struggle more with the challenges of daily life than the students they teach.
Amazon originally ordered a pilot episode of the show to be made, but eventually sold it to truTV, where it became the network’s first full-length scripted comedy. The series ran for three seasons and drew a mixed response from critics. It featured appearances from Sarah Michelle Gellar, Will Sasso, T.J. Miller, and Patton Oswalt.
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Set in a then wild west town outside of Colorado Springs in 1867, CBS’ Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman depicts a wealthy east coast physician’s adjustment to living and practicing medicine in the American west. After her friend is bitten by a rattlesnake and killed, “Dr. Mike” looks after three children and sets out on a mission to convince the people of Colorado Springs that female doctors are capable of practicing medicine.
The show was a hit with women aged 40 and above, but it struggled with the 18-49 male and female demographic that CBS was most interested in attracting. In an effort to diversify viewership, episodes of the western drama grew increasingly darker in its later seasons with beloved character deaths and sensitive subject matter.
Dog the Bounty Hunter
This next show is a reality series that took place in Colorado and Hawaii. Aired on A&E, Dog the Bounty Hunter chronicled Duane “Dog” Chapman’s family life and work as a bounty hunter. As you’d expect, the show became the source of a lot of controversy during its run of eight seasons. It went on temporary hiatus in 2007 after a tape of Chapman using a racial slur was released.
In 2009, he claimed that a fugitive shot at him and his crew during a pursuit. However, the claim was contradicted by the footage shown in the episode “Easy Rider.” The suspect was arrested and later charged with attempted murder, but the charge was dropped after the show’s production team and Chapman’s family members failed to provide clear and consistent evidence showing the shooting actually took place.
The fugitive later sued Chapman and his family over the incident. Because the show was heavily centered around criminals, it showed a side of Colorado that was often at odds with the state’s safe and law-abiding reputation.
The Man in the High Castle
Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle is a sci-fi thriller series set in an alternate reality in which the Axis powers won World War II and went on to control different regions of the United States. Japan controls the western US, and Germany the east. The two territories are divided by the Rocky Mountains, a designated neutral zone unclaimed by both world powers.
Cañon City, Colorado is a location where much of the drama in the Amazon series plays out. Critics had generally favorable opinions of the show, which wrapped up in 2019.
Last Man Standing
In Last Man Standing, Tim Allen plays a sporting goods store chain executive who lives with his wife and daughters in Denver. Originally on ABC for 6 seasons from 2011-2017, the show moved to Fox in 2018. Fox aired the 7th season in 2019 and the 8th in 2020.
The comedy, which is based around Tim Allen’s life as an executive, husband, father, and grandfather, was quickly dismissed by critics, and the show’s first season received a dismal 14% favorability rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, in 2016-2017 it was ABC’s second-highest rated comedy.
That’s a roundup of some of the bigger televisions shows based in Colorado. Hopefully, you found one to watch on Netflix, or perhaps just tune into next time you’re flipping through the channels.