Thom Beers talks about his new 'America's Toughest Jobs' series
By Christopher Rocchio, 08/14/2008
Reality TV producer Thom Beers is promising viewers that NBC's new America's Toughest Jobs reality series is the best blue-collar television he has to offer.
"It's not about all white collar stuff anymore. It's blue collar. Get in, get dirty," he told reporters during a Tuesday conference call. "I think that's what we're offering in this show."
America's Toughest Jobs will follow contestants from across the country thrust into employment at the country's most demanding workplaces -- some of which Beers has already explored on his other reality series, which have included Deadliest Catch, Verminators and Lobster Wars for Discovery Channel, Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men for History Channel, and Black Gold for truTV.
"I think the key to it is the fact that these are jobs that I've covered and have been very successful in covering in cable -- either through series or specials," he told reporters. "So the first season is literally Thom Beers: This is Your Life kind of series."
The 13 America's Toughest Jobs contestants will be plucked from their comfortable careers to instead work at the challenging, dangerous and demanding jobs -- which will include logging, oil drilling, icy road driving, and extreme fishing -- and Beers said he got the idea for the series from fans of his aforementioned shows who were eager to get out of the office.
"What I liked about it and the genus of it comes from one thing and that is that you have no idea how many emails and phone calls and letters I get from fans across the country who are saying, 'I love Deadliest Catch and how do I get a job on that boat?'" he told reporters.
"So the point was that I got so many people saying, 'I can do that, I can do this, I can do this,' And I realized why don't we open this up and just take ordinary people -- but people that obviously we cast around the country who have a certain skill level and who are interesting and have an interesting back-story -- And we allow them to go out and be literally rookies, be first timers on a series of jobs. And that's where it came from."
However Beers said when he provided the contestants with what they had asked for, many of them initially didn't respond too well.
"Half these people had that weird thousand mile stare. It's just like, 'I don't know if I'm even alive. I'm just a drone. I'm just working,'" recalled Beers.
"And all of a sudden man, they all spark to life. They had a look in their eye. There was passion in there and all of a sudden, man, it was like game on. It was really cool -- as if they shed their kind of strangely corporate mortal coil and all of a sudden they all became wild men and women. It was like this is cool."
Part of the initial stress is that the participants were required to live up to the same standards as professionals, and at the end of each job, their boss and co-workers would determine if it was a success or failure -- with those who are unable to get the job done being eliminated from the competition.
"In every show we brought on professionals that actually do this for a living. It was if you were a first day employee. These are the people that do it day in and day out. They'll teach the job for you and they'll judge by your performance. You'll be judged by your own personal performance," said Beers.
"So it was great because it took us out of the mix -- the producers -- and allowed real bosses to make decisions on who was good and who was bad."
America's Toughest Jobs host Josh Temple told reporters the bosses and co-workers encountered on the show embodied "the passion that these jobs come with."
"These bosses are the guys that do this for 40 years and their pride in their work, and if you ask any of them, none of them will say that strength is the most important thing to succeed in their job. It's heart," he explained.
"They all said that. And you could see it. They could train anyone and that's the point. They could train anyone - a green horn, but you got to have heart. And watching it, I totally believe it now."
The annual salary of each job the contestants complete will also be combined until the finale, which will see one of the contestants walk away with the grand prize -- worth more than $250,000.
Temple said that despite what each of the jobs entailed to reach that grand prize, none of the contestants ever showed any signs of quit.
"None of them quit ever. I never saw an ounce of quit," he said. "I saw a lot of exhaustion. They all wanted to do right by the job. They were all looking for the atta-boys. They were all looking for the, I'm doing a good job stuff."