DISCOVERY: “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe ****

four stars

“Dirty Jobs” Host Mike Rowe grows on you, and he occasionally rubs your fur the wrong way. His humorous insights can be funny, though once in a blue moon he pushes it over the top. Mike’s a nice guy, actually. Reminds me of some relatives of mine. Knowing how to share the stage is a fine art. There’s still room for improvement in all of us, I guess.

Mike pulls no punches in seeking out the world’s nastiest, filthiest jobs and the people who do them “so that the rest of us can live normally”. From sewers to waste disposal to compost to monkey cages, from termite repair to Hurricane Katrina cleanup, from counting rotting salmon to scooping elephant droppings, Mike’s on top of it. And he’s no TV sissy, either – if there’s dirt, Mike finds it right away.

I often watch this show more than I plan to because Dirty Jobs captures every imaginable slice of society’s support structure. It also captures many slices you’d never imagine in your worst dreams. Humor takes the edge off the filth and the gag reflex, but there are times I’d like to see Mike asking his job mentors and pit bosses more questions about the job, spending less time stealing the show with wise cracks and gratuitous snide comments. Even if, well, it is his show.

Mike’s show crams too many Dirty Jobs into a time slot. Combined with the ubiquitous ads, “Dirty Jobs” suffers from fragmentation and bad splicing more than most. But the Dirty Jobs are real, and the people who do them are real, interesting, and knowledgeable about their work. We couldn’t keep civilization as we know it going without them. I will be honest and admit that you couldn’t get me within a hundred yards of most of those Dirty Jobs, so hats off to Mike and all those folks who make his show possible. I’ll lend my support (but only as an armchair observer) as often as I can.

Sundays seem to be “Dirty Jobs Day”. Based on the number of first-time segments Mike seems to produce over the short haul, he must get paid in stock in Discovery.com. Not only does Mike get really dirty, he works really hard. You can’t really get mad at a guy who can sucessfully deliver that much fresh dirt day after day.

Job Safety: I can be a pretty sarcastic OSHA critic myself, but neither Mike nor his counterparts on other Discovery shows usually wear hearing protection, dust masks, respirators or other safety gear — unless it’s foisted off on them by the people they work with. I know it’s hard to carry off being a show star and producer, while mumbling through a respirator and listening through ear muffs. I have even seen Jamie (MythBusters) plug his ears with his fingers before a loud explosion. I know he knows better than that. And Matt, on “Future Weapons” – no ear guards with a 50 caliber automatic rifle? Good GOD, man – WHAT?

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