When father-son duo Richard Batenburg Jr. and Rick Batenburg III were approached about turning their cannabis business into a reality TV series, they had an immediate question: Why?
“Frankly, we were shocked, because we don’t think we’re that interesting,” Batenburg III said via Zoom from his Denver office on Thursday. “But we’re very excitable and have a high risk tolerance. They saw potential in the family-business concept, so that’s how we ended up as the hub of the show.”
The Batenburgs own and operate The Clear, which makes and sells cannabis edibles, oils and pre-rolled joints. In addition, the Denver-based team’s $125 million portfolio of assets includes various marijuana extraction, growing and retail companies and products, spread across nine states.
Private investments from about 120 friends and industry players have pushed them to the forefront of the multibillion-dollar legal weed industry, they said.
Producers have been filming for the series, dubbed “High Science,” this week in Colorado, grabbing cinematic footage of the Batenburgs at work and in the open. (The Denver Post was shown a preview of a dramatic opening shot of them walking toward the camera, the younger Batenburg exhaling a massive hit from his weed vape-pen.)
The show’s focus on different businesses and personalities in the legal-weed world will give it a national perspective, said Batenburg Jr., who formerly operated comedy and jazz clubs and, along with his son, co-owns the Breckenridge Vipers semi-pro hockey team — which Brandenburg III still plays on.
That, and the behind-the-scenes pedigree of “High Science,” first reported by Westword on Wednesday, already give the nascent series an edge.
While the show has not yet been picked up by a network, production on the eight-episode debut season is already well underway with several TV veterans attached, including Colorado-based producer Patrick Hackett. Executive producer Rick McKillop has won a pair of Primetime Emmy awards and produced titles such as “Duck Dynasty,” “Bates Motel,” “Longmire” and Storage Wars.” While he was head of the History Channel, he also developed series such as “Pawn Stars,” “Ice Road Truckers,” “American Pickers,” “Ax Men” and “Swamp People.”
Director and showrunner Brandon Clark is behind the Colorado-set rom-com “The Engagement Plot,” and takes turns working on “High Science” and his other projects, Batenburg III said. Coordinating producer Ed LeClere first hatched the idea, and had been developing it for three years when he brought it to the Batenburgs.
“Cannabis changed his life after an injury, because he was on so many pain meds he couldn’t even function,” said Batenburg Jr. “This idea of a reality series that highlighted the benefits from a medical perspective eventually grew into, ‘How do we make this entertaining?’ ”
The answer is variety. From stalking smugglers who have gone legit to profiling industry icons such as Massachusetts’ Greg “Chem” Krzanowski, the show will explore and educate about the history, chemistry and uses of cannabis. As the first state to legalize recreational cannabis starting in 2014, Colorado seemed like the natural choice.
“We’re the suits,” Batenburg Jr. said with a laugh. “Hollywood likes formulas, and people like what they know. So we’re bridging that gap between the (business world) and the stereotypical OGs, Rastafarian warriors, Earth mothers and the flower faithful.”
The Batenburgs hope to sell the show to a gold-standard network such as Discovery or A&E, bypassing the streaming-only route for a broadcast series that reaches the most households possible. Removing the stigma from weed and educating people — even stoners and lovers of the plant — is just as important as creating a slick, watchable TV show, they said.
“It’s a me-and-him-against-the-world type of dynamic,” Bateburg III said. “We’ve bet the farm, so to speak, and are trying to see what that looks like in real life. It’s our money, and the people I care about’s money. It’s a fine line to walk, creating a corporation while not losing the soul of what the product represents.”
“There’s a lot of subject matter within the context of each episode,” Bateburg Jr. added. “It’s not just me yelling at Rick like in ‘Orange County Choppers.’ ”
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