Whether it's an American phenomenon, or worldwide, the proliferation of a certain type of cable TV programing has proved one thing: there's a huge majority of people out there who'll watch a show about someone doing something rather than do it themselves. Home and Garden TV is a big part of that - sure some folks will get off their couches to stencil leaves on their walls, but most are happy to just sit back, soak it in, and move on to the next spectator sport. (See the Olympic games, for instance, and ask yourself what the real level of interest in synchronized diving is.) In the case of The Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, we'll admit that watching, rather than doing, is probably a good thing.
Rowe, the extremely personable host/ participant of the show, is a burly cross between Troy McClure and your local television news anchor. He's smart, funny, (with just the barest hint of snide) tough and good lookin' - the kind of guy every man wants to be, and the type of man every woman wants to be with. Finding his niche in this spectator world, Rowe has become the ambassador for dirty, dangerous and disgusting work, shadowing for a day folks who do things like clean up road-kill, paint bridges, tan leather and harvest kelp. As the refrain from the show's theme song (a snippet from a pre-Mike Patton Faith No More song) says; 'it's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it.'
And even though he's not exactly that 'someone,' Rowe, in adventure tourist fashion, does every job eagerly, with good humor, and incredible bravery. In addition to Rowe's spectacular attitudinal triumvirate (and pecs) the show fronts its own triple-threat of appeal, plying its trade through our desire to learn weird stuff, to get a sense about the type of people who do weird stuff, and to be grossed out.
Keeping in mind the name of the show, not all of the jobs in this 2-disc collection are disgusting (an illusion maintained, however, by the titles sequence that shows - among other atrocities - Rowe nearly heaving as a Road Kill Cleaner). Some of the jobs are just dirty or dangerous. No one is going to lose their lunch, for instance, as Rowe learns how to throw a pot, (duhn duhn duh) a job that merely gets his hands covered in clay. Nonetheless, that job, and the likes of Special Effects Artist, (Rowe turns into a zombie) Shingle Maker and Cranberry Farmer all fit neatly into the realm of armchair spectator delight. In much the same way shows like This Old House constantly side trip into places like toilet factories to maintain interest, most folks really like to see how stuff is made, or done, and it's what Dirty Jobs does best. I never thought I'd sit for 40 minutes to see how a billboard is erected, as in the first episode shown here, but by the end of that time I'd come away with plenty of knowledge and respect for the craft.
Respect comes into play when you meet the characters who actually get paid to do this stuff day to day, like the roughneck Texans who swing those multi-ton billboards around in the air, guiding them by hand so they can shove bolts through the tiny, tiny holes that secure the massive structures in place - high above the concrete, too. Their playful ribbing of Rowe (he gets his share of jabs in, too) and salt-of-the-earth vibes segue weirdly into the odd southerner who ices Rowe with his deadpan disdain for Rowe's lack of skills on the wheels of pottery steel. From gentlemen who wade into vast tanks of water-and-striped-bass-poop, through seemingly normal volunteers that are vomited on by egrets, to chemical analysts who synthesize the smell of dirty diapers, pretty much everyone approaches their work with good humor and a degree of knowledge that is way more specialized than one might think.
And then there's the gross-out factor, something that probably draws more people to the show than any other aspect. Even with all the danger and esoteric skill-sets, there's still plenty of room for gagging. Hands down the most disgusting things in this collection are the piles of rubbery fat, flesh and fur scraped from deer hides during the tanning process. Though the guys who do this job for a living are unaffected, I'm just happy that smell-o-vision is not a popular technology. We also get to enjoy Rowe's director of photography retching repeatedly on the way back from a kelp-harvesting mission, but the spew is digitized out. Hey, isn't that what we came for? In all, Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe: Collection 3 is a thoroughly entertaining, often hilarious, and only slightly nauseating continuation of one man's mission to say he's worked at the worst of the worst, if only for a day at a time.
The jobs on display in this collection are as follows: