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'Next Stop for Charlie': No-frills DIY travel show on Showtime

December 21, 2010 | 10:15 am

Charlie mandt Neil and Michael Mandt wanted to produce a TV series that would highlight their love for travel and adventure in foreign lands.

But there were obstacles: They had little money, no actors, and no script.

No problem.

Through cunning and determination, the Mandt brothers have developed several episodes of a travel-comedy series, "Next Stop for Charlie," which airs on Showtime, usually during late hours. The show is one of several low-budget series that have been acquired for the network but are not a part of its official slate.

Still, Neil Mandt, who runs a production company with his brother, said he is excited to air on the same network that broadcasts such huge hits as "Dexter" and "Weeds." "I feel like this is a great opportunity. It's commissioned in a different way, but it does air every week."

"Next Stop for Charlie" features Mandt as Charlie, a bathroom supplies salesman who is recruited by his rich aunt to track down his wayward cousin Erik, who has quit college and is cavorting around the world with an unlimited credit card. Mandt calls it a mix of "The Fugitive," "Gilligan's Island" and "The Hangover."

It's also his way of visiting exotic locations and creating a show on the spot. The locations are mostly chosen based on cultural festivals taking place in various countries. Each episode is totally improvised, with Mandt persuading passersbys and residents to appear as characters interacting with Charlie. The crew consists of Mandt, fellow actor Erik Adolphson (who plays cousin Erik) and a cameraman. The budget is about $15,000 per episode.

"It's not a vacation doing this, " Mandt said. "We're usually in a place for three days, shooting out of sequence, trying to come up with situations. It's exciting and fun, but mentally challenging."

The series is based on an independent film, "Last Stop for Paul," which the Mandts produced in 2007.

Showtime's acquisition department licensed 10 episodes of the series, which will air into January. Mandt hopes that the show is picked up. "It's totally unique, and I really want to keep doing it."

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Neil Mandt at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

Credit: Mandt Bros. Co.

Updated: A previous version of this post gave an incorrect title for the program. The show is called "Next Stop for Charlie."