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'CIO' travels back 100 years


You probably aren't aware that on July 7, 1906, a group of local pundits sat around a table and discussed - sometimes in heated fashion - the local and national issues of the day.

These pundits, by the way, had a passable resemblance to the group that shows up regularly on Colorado Inside Out, KBDI-Channel 12's Friday night public affairs show - Peter Boyles, Patricia Calhoun, Dani Newsum, David Kopel and Craig Silverman.

And this particular century-old half-hour covered a lot of territory, dealing with such historical figures as Alfred Packer, Colorado's notorious cannibal, and the activities of Mayor Robert Speer and President Theodore Roosevelt.

You'll see the panelists debate the many issues on grainy, old-fashioned sepia-toned film.

If you follow Colorado Inside Out, you've probably guessed that this production, looking at what was happening 100 years ago, is the series' fourth going-back-in-time expedition.

Previously, the show time-traveled back to 1945, 1968 and 1980, but Friday's half-hour is the most creative for several reasons.

The production style gives the show a feeling of "authenticity."

Producer Dominic Dezzutti says that after the program was taped in normal fashion, it went through a special retaping and editing process to provide the old-fashioned film effects.

And the costuming, by Sandra Tessier and Seams Like Old Times, adds to the "realism."

But the key is the performances of the panelists, who seemingly have developed the art of self-satire.

Boyles, regularly displaying more than a touch of arrogance as CIO host, injects the same personality into George Creel, a turn-of-the-century Rocky Mountain News reporter.

Calhoun, who on the weekly series often leaves the opinion she has the inside scoop on stories, portrays famous Denver Post reporter Polly Pry.

Silverman, who also projects his local insider attitude, plays bar owner Jacob Silverman, his actual grandfather. And ol' Jake is really caustic.

But the best self-parody belong to Kopel and Newsum. (I'm assuming they know they were indulging in parody.)

Kopel, as Rocky Mountain News editor Benjamin Peck, addressed issues as if he were giving a lecture - just as Kopel does on a weekly basis.

Newsum, who'd be a millionaire if she were paid by the word on CIO, portrays Elizabeth Ensley, a turn-of-the-century black activist who heads a "colored" women's Republican organization - not exactly a group Newsum would join.

On the surface, this half-hour might look like improv television.

Not so.

Aided by Colorado historian Tom Noel and Channel 12 producer Larry Patchett, the panelists did research on their characters and the issues of the day, which included the women's suffrage movement, the election of Mayor Speer, the birth of Denver's city parks system and the controversy surrounding the establishment of national parks at taxpayers' expense.

And who knows? Maybe Polly Pry did have a "silent-on-the-screen" interview with Mayor Speer, portrayed by City Auditor Dennis Gallagher, who has never met a showbiz role he didn't like.

Viewers not acquainted with Colorado Inside Out might have a difficult time associating with the historical theme.

But for regular viewers, this production provides another inventive change of pace.

Some things remain the same over 100 years, like Boyles and Newsum glaring at one another.

Dusty Saunders is the broadcasting critic for the Rocky Mountain News. This column is reprinted courtesy of the Rocky Mountain News.

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