America’s Toughest Jobs debuts on NBC, adds competition to Deadliest Catch-style shows

Deadliest Catch established one of the highest-brow sub-genres of reality television, those shows that follow men and women who work on extremely difficult jobs, and that sub-genre is now reaching a level of saturation, with equally compelling knock-offs and others that aren’t so great. Thus, reality TV is due for the next stage in the tough jobs sub-genre, and NBC delivers it tonight at 9 p.m. ET with America’s Toughest Jobs. It’ll be rebroadcast Wednesdays at 9 and 1 a.m. on CNBC.

Producer Thom Beers pioneered the format, so it makes sense that he’d take it to the next level, which involves–what else?–competition and elimination. On each hour-long show, a group of 13 people work, to borrow from the title, a tough job, like bull fighting, driving monster trucks, or logging. They work alongside and/or for the people who do the job for a living, and at the end of every episode, the cast member who performs the worst–or, in the show’s terminology, isn’t “tough enough”–is eliminated. The last person wins the cash prize, which will be equivalent to the annual salary of all the jobs put together.

The host–Josh Temple, of TLC’s Backyard Nation–seems kind of flat when he’s on camera, but he’s not around that much, and instead we get the familiar Discovery Channel narrator as our guide. He has to do a bit too much work to get the show to hang together, as without him we wouldn’t know what was going on. But it does ultimately come together well. The editing is amusing at times, like in the second episode, when the music dies along with a truck one of the contestants is attempting to drive. And the competition structure works, with an interesting twist coming near the end of the episode.

What really works for the show is that the cast members are really doing the job; in the first episode, it’s crab fishing in Alaska. Some contestants handle their new tasks with ease, and others struggle. They’re the kind of people you’d expect to apply for this show, such as a woman who non-ironically refers to another woman’s lack of “balls.” Watching crew members yell at them when they do life-threatening things is entertaining, especially as it gets really tense and dangerous (more so in the second episode than in the first). If only all competition shows could be this real.

America’s Toughest Jobs [NBC]

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.