Montana Gets Its Reality TV Closeup

By Dustin Nelson

From dates under the big sky with “The Bachelor” to a restaurant makeover at the Rising Sun Bistro in Kalispell, Montana made a splash on reality TV this year.

After Sean Lowe — the 12th bachelor on ABC’s hit dating show — touched down on Whitefish Lake to test the outdoor skills of his 12 potential brides, he exclaimed, “I love Montana and I love how beautiful it is, but I’m mostly excited to spend time with the girls.”

The Bachelor’s stop in Whitefish consisted of plenty of Montana-themed clichés, including a relay race competition amongst the women that consisted of a canoe race, hay bucking, log sawing, and goat milking — clearly normal Montana pastimes and essential skills of any future Mrs. Lowe.

Two months later and 15 miles away from the staged romance of The Bachelor’s Whitefish 3 weekend, Chef Robert Irvine of “Restaurant Impossible” met with the three feuding owners of the Rising Sun Bistro in Kalispell. The so-called “French bistro” was in need of a serious intervention as reviews on insisted that the Rising Sun Bistro “needs updating in all areas!”

Luckily for the owners, Irvine and his crew were willing to provide those updates on national TV. In two days, Irvine’s team updated the French-themed menu, adding items like the new pasta and beef bourguignon. They also gave the interior of the building a French makeover. Online reviews for the Rising Sun Bistro are still mixed, but the national exposure has brought more business.

It’s difficult to say why Montana has become a regular on reality TV, especially considering that “The Bachelor” and “Restaurant Impossible” were not the only shows to be filmed in the Treasure State this year. “Undercover Boss” followed the chairman and CEO of KOA Campgrounds as he masqueraded as an entry-level employee at a Billings site. It may be that the allure of Montana is something yet to be explored extensively on television; it may be that Montana is “the last best place,” or maybe Hollywood was out of ideas.

However, one thing is certain: Reality TV came a little too close to actual reality when, on a visit to Montana, the host of the Sportsman Channel’s “A Rifleman’s Journal” was shot and killed by a Whitefish man over an alleged affair.