‘Dirty Jobs’ Star Mike Rowe Sounds Off on ‘Bad News,’ Why He Highlights the Good Side in People

by Jennifer Shea

Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” believes in the essential goodness of humankind. And he says that’s what he tries to get at on his TV shows: to remind people that humanity is not all bad.

In a July interview with Spectrum News 1, Rowe sounded off on the divisiveness and “bad news” in recent headlines and offered up his shows – among them “Dirty Jobs,” “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” and “Returning the Favor” – as an antidote to that.

“We become products of what we see,” Rowe said. “And we’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years looking at bad news. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at our news feeds. We’ve seen friends unfriending other people, we’ve seen so much division.”

“And we’ve seen so much bad news in the headlines, that it just feels like, you know, it’s time to remind the country – and if I have a job, that’s what it is – to have the country on the shoulder every so often and say, ‘Hey, what about that guy? What about her? Look at what they’re doing,’” Rowe went on. “Right? The species is not quite as bad as we’ve been told we are.”

Mike Rowe Found His Calling With Help From His Grandfather

Rowe may be a successful TV show host now, but back in the day, he was just a struggling would-be tradesman. He got to where he is today partly by believing that ordinary working people have something to offer, and partly with guidance from his grandfather, who was no stranger to hard work himself.

Rowe’s grandfather, who lived next door to him growing up, was a master electrician. Rowe wanted to be just like him, but he wasn’t handy the way his grandfather was. He tried and failed to earn a living as a tradesman. Finally, Rowe told Plough in 2019, his grandfather sat him down and told him, “Look, Mike, you can be a tradesman, just get a different toolbox.”

Rowe started with the Baltimore Opera and moved to television from there. He got TV jobs all over the place. And he was working for CBS in 2001 when his mother pointed out that his grandfather, at 90, wasn’t going to live much longer. She said it sure would be nice if Rowe’s grandfather could see him doing something that looked like real work.

That inspired Rowe. He had been hosting a show called “Evening Magazine” where he went around to wineries and theater openings, things like that. But he decided to host an episode from a sewer. His boss let him do it (“Nobody’s watching the show anyway”), and so Rowe followed a sewer inspector around on his job for a day. The show aired during dinnertime.

“All hell broke loose,” Rowe recounted. “Some people were disgusted, obviously, and called for my immediate dismissal. But others – lots of others – wrote in with invitations… ‘You gotta meet my dad, my brother, my uncle, my cousin, my sister. Wait ’til you see what they do.’”

Rowe sold that idea to the Discovery Channel, and thus was “Dirty Jobs” born. It was all thanks to Rowe’s grandfather, who after all those years could finally tune in to see his grandson doing hard work. And it couldn’t have happened if Rowe hadn’t believed that people were more than just bad news.