Sweat TV
Scene from a Season 2 episode of the show "Ice Road Truckers"

Scene from a Season 2 episode of the show "Ice Road Truckers"

When you think about it, all those “reality” shows where contestants eat worms and wrestle in mud aren’t reality at all. But a new kind of reality TV has bellied up to the bar and elbowed past the buff little exhibitionists on Fear Factor.

Call it working man’s TV — sweat TV. It’s real people, drawing real pay, and risking their lives to do it.

They’ve got titles like “The Deadliest Catch.” “Ice Road Truckers.” “Ax Men.” And they’re pulling in the ratings like a Ford F-150 pulls out a tree stump.

For producer Thom Beers, there was no one “Eureka!” moment when he nailed the formula for this line of hugely successful shows. But if had to choose one, it was in 1999, when he clung to the mast of an Alaskan crabber in the worst storm in 30 years. If there was another, it was when he got his first royalty check for his hit show “Monster Garage”: It had a few more zeros than he was used to.

This hour: Working up a sweat with the mogul of working-man TV, Thom Beers.

You can join the conversation. Are you hooked? What’s different about these shows that has them pulling in viewers? Is this reality TV the way it was supposed to be?

* * *


Thom Beers, CEO and Executive Producer of Original Productions, and creator of “The Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers,” “Black Gold,” “American’s Toughest Jobs” and other shows.

James Poniewozik, TV columnist for Time magazine and author of the blog Tuned In.  His piece “Reality TV’s Working-Class Heroes” looked at Thom Beers’ productions.

Phil Harris, captain of the fishing vessel Cornelia Marie, featured on “The Deadliest Catch.”

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