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Best Hard Working American Reality TV Shows

Posted By Jim On 08/03/2009 @ 12:34 pm In Personal Finance | 15 Comments

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 [3] 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


This list would have absolutely no credibility if it didn’t start with Deadliest Catch [4] 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 [5] 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 [6], 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 [7] 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


OK, that bit about not enjoy schadenfreud earlier? It might have been misplaced because part of the appeal of Parking Wars [8] 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


Ahhh, my wife loves this show, Chop Chop! King of Cars [9] 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?


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[3] I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here: http://celebrity.itv.com/

[4] Deadliest Catch: http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/deadliestcatch/deadliestcatch.html

[5] Wrecked: http://www.speedtv.com/programs/wrecked

[6] O’Hare Towing: http://www.oharetowing.com/

[7] Ice Road Truckers: http://www.history.com/minisites/iceroadtruckers

[8] Parking Wars: http://www.aetv.com/parking-wars/

[9] King of Cars: http://www.aetv.com/kingofcars/index.jsp

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