“Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays, CNN
Mike Rowe will forever be tied to his guilty pleasure show “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, muddy and smelly and smiling all the way. But after performing 300 jobs on 169 episodes, he decided it was time to try something a little less, well, dirty.
But most networks wanted him to do a show more scripted than he was willing to do. He hoped to explore people’s jobs without an end game, without gimmicks.
Then early last year, he ran into then new CNN President Jeff Zucker at the Time Warner Center’s Landmarc French and Italian bistro in New York City.
Zucker told Rowe: “I want you on my air.”
“I don’t know,” Rowe responded. “You’re a news network.”
“It’s nonfiction,” Zucker said. “You’re a nonfiction guy. Tell me what you need.”
Rowe said he simply wanted an hour of prime time and a small crew to “go out and meet real people and tell honest stories.”
Though it took some time, Rowe and Zucker eventually hashed out a deal. Rowe’s show “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” debuts at 9 p.m. Wednesday, part of CNN’s continued expansion into unscripted, non-news programming such as Emmy-winning “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “The Hunt With John Walsh.”
The show is an extension of what Rowe did on a San Francisco TV station in the early 2000s before “Dirty Jobs.” He even cribbed the show title.
“Somebody’s Gotta Do It” is casual and low-key, with Rowe asking people about their jobs using his charm, wit and curiosity to carry the episode. He doesn’t mind being a little silly, too.
In the first episode, he goes behind the scenes of the popular Le Reve Show in Las Vegas, which features splashy aquatic acrobatics and ballet. When an employee notes how pristine the pool is, Rowe couldn’t help but ask if he knew for sure someone hadn’t urinated in it. “I’m here,” Rowe cracks, “to ask the tough questions!”
He breaks down the artifice of how a show like his is normally made. At one point, he says since he’s in Vegas, he has to provide the requisite shot of the Strip followed by a scene of Rowe going up and down in an outdoor elevator.
“The tropes of reality are exactly the types of things we like to good-naturedly lampoon,” he said.
Later, Rowe drags a very reluctant public relations person in front of the camera yet Rowe is so disarming, by the end of the segment, the man is gabbing away like they’re best buds.
“The entire La Reve Show is based on trust,” Rowe said. “What better way to exemplify that than to get the PR guy to let us do what nobody else has been allowed to do?” (The show producers let Rowe drop from 35 feet into said pool of water.)
Rowe said his goal is to create a “transparent show and throw production and scripts out of the window, to put viewers in very, very close. CNN is basically freeing up an hour each week, and I can guarantee there will be no bad news. That’s kind of fun. Viewers will dig it.”
As far as which jobs he chooses to profile, he said he gets virtually all his ideas from fans. “I call it two degrees of Mike. I’ve gotten ideas from random strangers on the street. That happens almost every day. Probably half come from my Facebook page. The rest is some version of someone who knows someone.”
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com