Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs Make Triumphant Return to TV
Last week, Mike Rowe proved that yes, you can go home again. No, he's not back in Baltimore with his equally recognizable parents (although one might argue that mom Peggy is eclipsing her son's fame, as she is now a best-selling author. Have you read her latest book, yet?) But no, he's not back in his hometown of Baltimore quarantining with mom and dad. Instead, Rowe, along with the entire original crew of Dirty Jobs returned to their television home on the Discovery Channel for a special four-episode revisit, Dirty Jobs: Rowe'd Trip. The original Dirty Jobs, sprang from an idea Rowe had for a short segment for CBS News that was really intended to be a tribute to his grandfather, an electrician. But it struck a chord and by 2004, Rowe and his love letter to essential workers was must-see TV on the Discovery Channel for 300 episodes. The show was cancelled in 2012, but never actually went off the air. This groundbreaking show has survived in re-runs ever since, sometimes airing every day. The appeal of the show could be driven by the charisma of its host, or the twinkle in his eye, but mostly it was a hit because it celebrated so many Americans who are rarely celebrated. "The whole point of Dirty Jobs was always to shine the light on somebody who was out of sight and out of mind and remind the country that they're there. And that they're connected to us," Rowe explained during a recent call with Southern Living.
While Rowe and network executives had already bandied around the idea of a reboot well before the coronavirus swept the globe, their plans shifted gears when it was clear their hopes of beginning production for new episodes in April would not come to fruition. They needed a new plan.
"Like everybody else, I'd been cooped up for 4 and a half months and was looking for a legitimate excuse to get outside. I missed all of the simple things. Hanging out with friends, just being out," Rowe said. Adding that the bigger picture of it was, "realizing that Dirty Jobs had been the granddaddy of essential working shows. And suddenly essential workers were headline news."
The discussions were first about doing a show over Zoom, but that just didn't cut it for Rowe.
"If I am gonna look back at Dirty Jobs that's just not the kind of show that should come to you from the safety of a bunker, in my home. I didn't want to be reckless, or careless, or irresponsible, but I also didn't want to be cowering," he said.
And so, the inspiration for what came next, sprung from a tune already familiar to the Discovery Channel family.
"What really inspired it was that I was in the midst of doing, this Boom De Yada campaign for Discovery. I did the original one in 2008, and then they re-booted it. All their talent singing this crazy old campfire song," he explained. Below you can watch the commercial Rowe references. Right away you will hear the instantly recognizable, velvety, booming bass of the former opera singer as he leads his colleagues in joyful song.
"And you know, the promise at the center of that whole campaign is 'we'll bring the world to you,' which of course made perfect sense to a country in lockdown. So, my pitch to the network was, let's just live up to the campaign that I'm at the center of. Let me bring the world to your viewers. Not from my office or my kitchen table, but from the world. We had to do it. And once we looked at it like that, there really was no argument. You really have to be out in the world in order to talk about the world," he continued. The network execs agreed and gave him the green light to get the band back together. Rowe called his original crew, Barsky, Jones, Doug, and Troy and proposed his plan.
"What if we all get tested? What if we rent an RV? What if we keep mostly to ourselves? We'll drive down the coast, we'll get a bunkhouse, and just spend 4 or 5 days together. And every morning, get up and take the RV someplace cool. And along the way pull over, stop, talk, reminisce, Zoom with Dirty Jobbers from the road and in general just make trouble and remind each other why we've stayed friends through all this." Without hesitation, they all agreed and set out for their road trip that we all get to tag along on. Rowe describes this mini-reboot as, "It's part where are they now? It's part road trip and it's part rumination on the themes that made the show successful in the first place. The definition of a good job and the very essence of essentiality, If that's a word."
This beloved show returns to TV at the most perfect time. A time when reboots are king. From HBO's reimagining of Perry Mason to Netflix's take on The Babysitter's Club, pop culture is reaching backwards. And according to Rowe, for good reason.
"We're living in a time now where everything feels unfamiliar. The lockdown, the quarantine, to the uncertainty and unpredictability of viruses and elections. It's all so uncertain and if you can look back and jointly or collectively recall something that brought a family together or a community or a country, I don't think it matters what it is. A book, a TV show, a movie, a song. All of that stuff is suddenly really galvanizing. And you know, people want a big bowl of warm milk. And they'll take it wherever they can get it, even if there's some dirt in it. Which my particular bowl has," he said with a hearty chuckle.
The first episode of the four aired last week, but have no fear if you missed it. You can catch up on the Discovery GO app here. Right from the opening credits, the guys bring you that warm bowl of milk, that comforting familiarity, as Rowe and his loyal crew sing the now well-known theme song, that Rowe himself wrote. It feels like we have all piled into that RV with our old friends and are headed out to summer camp. We all get to tag along to the great outdoors and also the trip down memory lane as the men reminisce over past adventures the way the wise elders of a tribe might dazzle the next generation. While this Rowe'd Trip will just be four episodes, it is likely that more is coming. The pandemic has slowed the process but Rowe confidently assured us that a full reboot is in the works, and now he has a little more motivation.
"I thought if we do Dirty Jobs 2.0, it would give me a chance to reunite with the crew, which I thought would be fine, but also a better platform to be more useful to my foundation. Because Mike Rowe Works evolved from Dirty Jobs, and bringing it back would thrust all of that into the spotlight." Rowe's foundation, Mike Rowe Works makes good use of his platform to bring pride back to skilled work, help close the skills gap, and award work ethic scholarships to trade schools to help those who wish to enter these essential fields. Monday, the foundation announced that they are awarding just over a million dollars in scholarships this year.
Through new episodes of Dirty Jobs, Rowe can bring his mission back to the masses. When production can move forward is still undetermined but to hold you over, make sure to watch Dirty Jobs: Rowe'd Trip, Tuesday nights on Discovery.