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Best Hard Working American Reality TV Shows

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I hate reality televisions shows that follow tragically complicated celebrities, or just straight up follows tragically complicated civilians, because they’re exercises in schedenfreud. It’s entertainment because you’re reveling in the misery of others! I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here is basically a farce built around the popularity of these types of shows. I have nothing against the people on the shows or the people who watch them, I’m just not a fan.

But I do like reality television. In fact, I would say I love reality television, just not the Real World/Road Rules-type of reality show… more like the Dirty Jobs variety. I think that a lot of jobs in America, hard working, back breaking, and hand numbing jobs deserve a bit of the spotlight so I’m going to list the best hard working American reality television shows that I enjoy. This list is in no particular order.

Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel

Deadliest Catch
This list would have absolutely no credibility if it didn’t start with Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel. The show follows six fishing ships (Northwestern, Time Bandit, Cornelia Marie, Wizard, Lisa Marie, and the Trailblazer) through their fishing seasons, highlighted by the crab season. You truly get a taste of how dangerous the job is. You watch the crew as they do their job, the captain as he plots where he’ll put the pots to get the highest yield, and you’ll revel as they celebrate large pots and curse small ones.

I don’t know this to be certain but this show probably spawned this genre of television, televising difficult and dangerous jobs for the merriment of people like me sitting in our comfortable couches. I know that after I watched this show, I understood why crab legs were as expensive as they are!

Wrecked: Life in the Crash Lane on Speed Channel

Wrecked is my latest find, via Hulu, and I think this show is great. It’s broadcast on the Speed channel and it follows O’Hare Towing, a truck and car service company that opened in 1963 and services the Chicago land area. It’s run by Bill and Marci Gratzianna, with both playing prominent roles in the television show.

The one thing that you learn about watching this show is that towing is not only a physically demanding job, but a mentally demanding job. The drivers need to be experts in real life physics. I don’t mean the theoretically stuff they tried to teach you in a classroom, I mean real life, “this-truck-slid-off-the-road-and-is-sideways-in-a-ditch-how-are-you-getting-it-out” type of physics. They’re also amazingly creative in their solutions, which is a product of years of experience and just straight up smarts. The best example of this is with episode 5 of season 2, Slaying the Dragon.

Oh, and for those that don’t think math is a big factor, at around the 19:44 mark of episode 5, the discussion they have shows that math is a factor, it’s just quickly calculated in their heads.

Ice Road Truckers on History Channel

Ice Road Truckers
Ice Road Truckers is a show about truck drivers in an especially treacherous stretch of road. In the newest season, Season 3, they’ll be going to Alaska where they’ll be shuttling cargoe between Fairbanks, Coldfood, and Deadhorse (not a great name, don’t you think?). Previous seasons followed truckers as they made 350-mile runs across Canada (Season 1) and runs inside the Arctic circle (Season 2).

I never got as into this show as some of the others (as in I didn’t DVR it) but if I ever saw it on TV, I was almost glued to it.

Parking Wars on A&E

Parking Wars
OK, that bit about not enjoy schadenfreud earlier? It might have been misplaced because part of the appeal of Parking Wars is certainly watching people’s reactions to getting a ticket or a tow. The “victims” are almost always in the wrong, but the excuses they come up with are absolutely hilarious. Parking Wars follows four groups in the Philadelphia Parking Authority – the officers that ticket offenders, the ones that install boots on cars, the tow squad, and then the folks who run the impound lot.

The part I really enjoy about this program involves the human psychology involved. I can’t cite which episodes I saw these on but on multiple occasions they follow tow truck drivers as they search for cars they can tow. Each driver has their favorite spots to check out when they’re simply roaming, just like traffic police have their favorite streets to search for illegally parked cars.

King of Cars on A&E

King of Cars
Ahhh, my wife loves this show, Chop Chop! King of Cars is a reality TV show that follows “Chop,” owner of Towbin Dodge in Las Vegas, and life in the car dealership. The show is no longer being broadcast on the air but there are two seasons on XXX worth checking out.

The appeal of this show is that it shows the other side of the car dealership, the side we don’t get to see when we walk into the showroom. The pressure to hit numbers on a daily basis, the hierarchy of salespersons, and what happens in the back offices.

What’s your favorite TV show?

{ 15 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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15 Responses to “Best Hard Working American Reality TV Shows”

  1. Hanna says:


    But my favorite reality show would probably have to be “True Life.” It’s weird but interesting when you could relate to the people exposing & dealing with their problems.

  2. My favorite show is Monk, which returns this Friday. Excited? Oh yeah … Monk and Psych ( see my review here -> )are really the only shows I watch with any sort of regularity. I’ll watch a game or race when I get a chance, but I’m not much for “regular TV”. I really enjoy NCIS … but I managed to miss it nearly every week – just not a high priority.

    I do enjoy the true life forensics shows when they are on (not a fan of CSI, though). Every now and then, I’ll stumble upon a mini-marathon and watch them. I’m a bit of a crime enthusiast (crime is featured in a fair number of my short stories).

  3. My favorite is on BBC America, and it’s called How Clean Is Your House. Too bad I canceled my cable to save money. 🙁

  4. Jim

    So-called “reality tv” is nothing but garbage. The purpose of reality tv programming is to embarrass and humiliate basically stupid, greedy people. Those who participate in such reality shows are all idiots, as also must be those who actually watch this excrement.

    I see no “redeeming social value” in watching idiots with no self-respect behaving badly in the workplace, or in a secluded tropical location, or in a boardroom, or while living together, or watching self-absorbed arseholes pimp themselves out, or following D and lower-level celebrities, whose careers are beyond repair, carry on with siblings, spouses, family members and entourages.

    Anyone who watches THE SOUP or THE DISH can see how much pure excrement is currently on both broadcast and cable stations.

    This type of “reality tv” is actually dangerous to young viewers, teaching that greed is king, that it is acceptable to behave badly, and that humiliation if funny. Reality tv is far more dangerous than any brief wardrobe malfunction.

    I am not familiar with the individual shows that you mentioned, as I refuse to watch any “reality tv”. They seem more documentary in nature than what has come to be known as reality television. What I do not consider to be of this pitiful genre are perhaps real reality shows like the home improvement programs on HGTV and DIY and “make-over” shows like “What Not to Wear”.

    I dare anyone to defend such shows as The Bachelor, Bachelorette, More to Love, Apprentice, Biggest Loser, Big Brother, or any “reality” program on MTV, VH1 or E.

    While those who appear on, and those who watch, reality tv are truly big losers, the Biggest Loser is the “normal” tv viewer, who is deprived of real entertainment. For every hour of the Apprentice we lose an hour of perhaps the next MASH or HILL STREET BLUES or other truly entertaining scripted drama or comedy.


  5. tom says:

    You forgot the best one of all…

    Dirty Jobs!

  6. No Debt Plan says:

    Well Robert has a strong opinion!

    I agree with Robert to a point… but only on those types of shows. Yes, Big Brother, the Bachelor, etc. are all so far away from reality they should be called anti-reality shows.

    But compare them to Deadliest Catch. I was hooked on DC for a season or two. Why? Because it is real. These guys are out in the middle of the north pacific where at least one sailor dies each year. It’s crazy risky stuff — and it is a real job. That’s what I’ll watch.

    Then again all television is garbage for the most part. Everyone wants a piece of your dollar. 🙂

  7. FFB says:

    I like Survivorman. That dude looks so beat up by the end of the show… Man vs Wild is good too but it lost some appeal when the whole staying at 4-star hotels thing was revealed.

  8. Jimmy says:

    Intervention on A&E.

    Best show ever.

  9. Shawanda says:

    Operation Repo is at the top of my list. From my understanding, some of the episodes are reenacted. But that doesn’t stop me from loving the heck out of the show. The individuals who go months on end without paying their car note are, what I would consider, violent, irrational, thieves, so I take great pleasure in watching them get their vehicle repossessed.

  10. Brian Woods says:

    Extreme Logging gets my vote.

  11. Pawn Stars on the History Channel is a new one I’ve been watching lately. It is pretty neat watching them appraise things and figuring out what to offer for things so that they can re-sell at a profit.

  12. Patrick says:

    Of the shows in the list you gave, I definitely like deadliest catch the best. It’s interesting to see in the lives of people doing one of the world’s deadliest jobs. The camera men who work for the show also have much of the same risk as the workers when doing many of the shots.

  13. eric says:

    Uu..thanks for the recommendations. Just what I needed…more TV shows. 😛

  14. Damon Day says:

    I don’t have much time for TV, but I usually tivo and stay up on 1 or 2 shows when I can.
    A year ago I was hooked on ice road truckers. These guys are nuts. The rigs that they are driving over a few feet of ice. No thank you on that one.

    I am ashamed to admit it, but my wife got him hooked on big brother. Not sure what it is about that show, but I find it very interesting to watch how total strangers interact with each other in that type of environment.

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