Mike Rowe Explained Why ‘TV Blows’ and How That Realization Led to ‘Dirty Jobs’

by Keeli Parkey

One goal television personality Mike Rowe had when he set out to make “Dirty Jobs” was to treat the people he showcased in the series with respect.

That was an important goal for him because of how television shows throughout for years and years had treated people who appeared in them. The now 59-year-old Rowe talked about this during a 2010 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Television is not a medium that he all that fond of because of how people are treated. “TV blows. We turn regular people into heroes or punch lines. That’s what we do,” Mike Rowe explained.

Needless to say, Rowe made it a priority to make sure that the people on his show were not made into something they were not – particularly punch lines.

“Once it became clear that ‘Dirty Jobs’ was going to work, to me that became the challenge. How do we keep that from happening?” Rowe also said.

Rowe Decided He Would Be the Punchline of ‘Dirty Jobs’

So, how did Mike Rowe and the “Dirty Jobs” team decide to solve this problem? The solution was one that centered around Rowe himself. See, Rowe and company realized that the person who became the punchline had to be him.

“And then it became clear. It has to be me. I have to fail. I’m paid to try, and I’m rewarded for failing. It’s the ultimate management of expectations,” Rowe also explained.

During that 2010 interview, the “Dirty Jobs” host also talked about how he was happy to be the punchline that viewers found joy in laughing at over the years.

“I never underestimate the power of pity. … Every bad joke, every endorsement deal, all of the things that a typical host would normally get creamed for, people don’t mind, because they know I don’t cheat when it comes to the work I actually try. I’m a lab rat. I’m a perpetual apprentice. The joke is on me if there is one,” Mike Rowe also said.

Mike Rowe Also Explained How His ‘Dirty Jobs’ Series Was Inspired By an Interview That Took Place in a Sewer

During November 2021, Mike Rowe shared the interview that helped inspire the creation of “Dirty Jobs.” Surprisingly, this interview took place in a sewer.

Rowe reportedly decided to take part in that interview, because his mother encouraged him to branch out from his work on QVC. “She says, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if before he died he turned on the TV and saw you doing something that looked like work?’ … Imagine your mother hitting you with that?” he explained.

Rowe gave the matter some thought. In the end, he decided to interview someone who worked in a sewer. He described what he filmed on that day as “so disgusting and so funny.” The show wasn’t immediately picked up. However, it was in the end and Rowe accomplished what he set out to do.

“It took me a while to sell it because everybody who looked at my tape said, ‘It’s a talk show in a sewer.’ Kind of. But it’s also a love letter to work,” Mike Rowe also said.