Sunday, October 19, 2008

What I'm Watching: America's Toughest Jobs

Wow! This is the number two show currently airing on NBC! Oh, wait. That's only if you rank them alphabetically, in which case it comes right after "30 Rock" and just before "America's Got Talent."

The network made wha
t was probably a wise decision by dumping this reality fare on Friday nights. As much as I like it, I don't think it could compete with the big boys during prime time weeknights. It feels more like a cable show, derivative as it is of Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch.

The premise has the contestants trying a difficult and dangerous job each week in an effort to stay in the competition. Every week, the bottom performers are pitted against each other in a timed trial related to the job at hand.

The season is wrapping up in a week or two, and so far we've seen monster truck driving, bull-riding, ice road trucking, crab fish boating, mountain climbing, bridge contracting, gold panning, and logging. Each week, we get a look at the tasks involved in each of these harrowing professions, and I found that aspect of the show to be entertaining and educational.

The contestants are a little less pretty than the average batch of reality show contestants, which makes them a little more real. Sure, there was the obligatory model, but most of them come from less glamorous stock, and the game brings out the realness in them. Instead of putting on a front for the cameras during a short period of time, these folks were filmed for long days of hard labor, and the production crew is good at catching them with their guards down.

The show wisely brings in experts in each field to train and judge the contestan
ts. This added to the feeling of reality, and the foremen tended to be no-nonsense order-barkers, based on their efforts to keep their workers safe.

Another nice thing about this show is that it's painfully, blissfully, fair. With such difficult trials, and such an objective elimination process, the show is pretty unique in that the remaining finalists have gotten this far by earning their place. They are tough, they are smart, and they are brave. A Survivor finalist? Not so much.

I don't know if this one is coming back for a Season 2, but right now, you can still see the last few episodes on Hulu, with one or two more to come.

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