"My name is Mike Rowe... and this is my job. I explore the country looking for people who aren't afraid to get dirty. Hard-working men and women who earn an honest living doing the kinds of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us. Now get ready... to get dirty!"
Popular Discovery Channel show in which host Mike Rowe visits a variety of job sites that are filthy, dangerous, weird, disgusting, or all of the above. He interviews workers, learns about the job, and tries his hand at performing each task. Cancelled in 2012 after eight seasons.
Abnormal Ammo: What is essentially a potato gun, shooting shark repellant.
One poo-pumping station, which admittedly is not itself a sewer, was around 100 feet deep, however. They were in there to replace one of the pumps.
Actor Allusion: While working on a suspension bridge, Mike gets the job of directing traffic and he's all too happy to point out a Ford truck driving by. Guess who's the official spokesperson for Ford right now?
Black Humor: After releasing several seals into the ocean after they've been rehabilitated Mike muses that he may see them again someday, "Perhaps on Shark Week."
Brick Joke: Several times during the "Horse Tester" episode, Mike asks hopefully about the possibility of some bourbon (since they're in Kentucky). During the end credits, his host brings out a bottle, only to hear from the rest of the crew that Mike has already left.
Butt Monkey: Producer Dave Barsky is a magnet for humiliating and hilarious accidents. Mike plays this up every chance he gets.
Guess who forgot about not touching your head at the lice-removal salon and had to get shaved.
Some of the cameramen seen on the show could fall in this category too. Especially Troy.
Troy let Mike try to shave his neck with a straight razor; fortunately Mike was too freaked out to actually do it (it was "too Sweeney Todd") since even the professional barber caused him to bleed.
Doug's obsession with artistic lighting and acrophobia — he was "No, Just...No" with sitting on a bosun's chair with a 40 lb. camera on the Honolulu hi-rise but later redeemed himself on top of a 50-ft. antenna.
In several episodes the guys set up cameras in positions that they know are likely to end with the destruction of the camera, such as under trees that are about to be felled or next to explosives that are about to be set off, in the hopes of getting interesting footage.
Another funny and luckily undamaging incident was when a sea lamprey latched onto a camera lens, leading Mike to say "Troy, there's something on your lens" in a hilarious deadpan manner.
Sometimes crosses over with cameraman abuse (though usually not intentional) like how Troy got his hair caught in the pull line half way up a skyscraper in Hawaii. If he'd fallen he would have been scalped, but luckily all he lost was a bit of hair thanks to a member of the window washing team and a swiss army knife.
Cancelled: Sadly, as of November 2012, the show is No More.
Mike also does a lot of voiceover/narration work for other Discovery Channel shows and documentaries, which showcases his quite authoritative and sexy voice.
Not to mention plenty of TV and radio commercials for Ford.
Clip Show: Several times, usually with a theme such as 'the dirtiest ever Dirty Jobs' or a few behind-the-scenes shows demonstrating what people go through to get the shots of Mike doing the actual work.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The episode about geoduck farmers (geoducks are marine bivalves with somewhat phallic mantles which can be extended upward for some distance). At one point Mike shows a newly-caught geoduck with its formerly erect mantle sagging and makes a sad face.
Mike: What's this white stuff? Guy: Cod semen. Mike: Come again? Guy: It's cod semen. Mike: ...come again?
One episode he worked on a tall ship and was set to police the captain's (binnacle) balls. After an entire scene with both Mike and the crew members joking, he narrates that after he finished polishing the balls, he went to see the caulker.
He was positively delighted to learn that the hole on the sides of wine barrels is indeed called the bunghole (twice over: once while actually making the barrels and once while making wine to put into them), and similarly pleased to hear that termite droppings are referred to as "frass."
The look on his face when he finds out that sea lampreys are essentially "all gonad" once they start migrating back to spawn and die.
Mike had a field day with date palm pollination job. Perhaps tree reproduction and a fruit called a date was just too easy, though he didn't seize on the palm part.
Epic Fail: Whenever Mike tries his hand at the job being shown, the results vary between passable and Epic Fail. One particularly funny bit was when he was upstaged by a 11 year old at a farm while he was helping clean cows' hooves.
One later job had Mike and crew inside a cage of lemurs that didn't seem to pleased about strangers. While they weren't as aggressive Mike quickly got Paddy flashbacks.
Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Every year since the show's conception, Mike has done a shark-related episode for Shark week. The scariest thing he's ever done on show is probably testing a shark-proof chain mail dive suit. First hand.
Everything Trying to Kill You: The one-man fireworks factory: "Don't get in the habit [of tapping a metal scoop coated in flash powder]." Also, there's five men all carrying electronics crammed in a room where one spark can cause an explosion ("You should turn off your cellphone").
Follow the Leader: "The Worst Job I Ever Loved" segments on the Los Angeles CBS news; Hoarders (the cleanup crew and filmmakers have to deal with psychologically disturbing levels of clutter that includes rotten food and dead animals); Dhani Tackles The Globe on Travel Channel and Sports Jobs With Junior Seau on Versus; the second US variation of Secret Millionaire, Undercover Boss (the premier episode features the CEO of Waste Management).
World's Toughest Fixes on National Geographic is a slight variation - Sean Riley is a rigger by trade, so he often contributes more to the task at hand than Rowe does. Riley also knows when to get out of the way.
Footnote Fever: The Nitty-Gritty episodes, early episodes with Mike's written commentary. Reveals such interesting tidbits as Mike was sleep-deprived for the cranberry harvesting episode and the high-pitched giggling when he almost burned himself at the jam factory wasn't one of the women but Barsky (he'll deny it, of course).
Funny Background Event: During the episode when Mike's on an ostrich farm, while the farm owner is talking with Mike about the sounds ostriches make, you can see an ostrich sneakily grabbing some food out of the wheelbarrow they're standing beside. Neither of the guys notice.
Fun with Acronyms: The DECOMP (Discovering Entymology and Criminalistics Over Many Projects) Lab.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Aside from, y'know, all the actual feces (human and non) Mike has dealt with over the years, how about the time he visited a mannequin factory, copped a feel with some undressed torsos (with a pervy far-away look on his face) and asked the guy who makes the vinyl hand replicas if he had "hundreds of hand jobs" every day? Did I mention all of this aired with no bleeping or blurring?
(while pulling a vinyl hand out of its mold): "Ah, I didn't pull out in time."
And the time he was working at a bone black factory and was hammering on the side of a container while making it sound like a BDSM session. The look on the face of his host was priceless.
During a rerun show, Mike had this gem, while holding two large, orange inflatable balls. "Like walnuts. Not many people know this, but walnuts are full of hair. And when they fall from the tree, they fall in the dirt. And no one wants their walnuts hairy and dirty. At least, not in this country." And then, after the short about the walnuts: "There you go, beer, nuts and tight spaces all in one show."
"Alright, lets go do a rim job!" How in the hell did that make it through?
Good News, Bad News: Immediately preceding a dive in a shark cage, the captain of the boat informs Mike that the South African tourism board allows each boat to lose up to three tourists to shark attacks each month (the good news), but that he's reached his quota already so Mike needs to be extra careful (the bad news).
Groin Attack: "Oh! Got me right in a bad place!" Let's just say that Mike should probably be wearing a cup at this point considering how many times this has happened. One particularly hilarious bit was when he was at a camel farm and got to ride one, but unfortunately for him the saddle hit a very tender spot...
Mike assisted a veterinarian in castrating a horse. His expression made it clear that he's one to Share the Male Pain.
Left It In: When Mike or his host makes a mistake, or the host worries about looking stupid on camera, Mike frequently reassures them by saying "we won't use any of this." (And occasionally "No one watches the show.") It goes without saying that this is blatantly untrue.
Manly Tears: The after-effect of the fireworks ingredients. The firework-maker is used to tears seeping from (and possibly stinging) his eyes every night; Mike, less so.
Some behind the scenes footage from later that episode revealed that stuff was really hard to get out and it made sleeping a wholly unbearable experience for several days thereafter.
Meaningful Name: Popcorn the binturong/bearcat, named so because he smells exactly like popcorn (and poo because he dragged his tail through it).
Mike is also astounded when he finds out that the name of one llama is literally Call Girl. When he has it explained to him that her avoiding a male's advances is a sign she might be pregnant he jokes that this would probably be true of any woman named Call Girl.
Mike: "That's not my girlfriend. Friendly, though!"
Apparently Doug and Troy scored in the Fangirl department: they recently got a nice letter from a professional dancer and her two coworkers ("I guess we have a thing for tall, pale men with big cameras — even if you're old enough to be our dads").
No Dead Body Poops: An interesting aversion. When touring Skip Cockerum's facility for making high-quality bird feed, part of the job involves scalding a bag full of maggots in a pail of hot water so they'll die instantly. During this process Mike asks why the water gets so cloudy so quickly, to which Skip informs him that what he's seeing is the result of the maggots, in effect, shitting themselves to death.
No Fourth Wall: No real attempt is made to hide the cameras or cameramen from the viewer; on the contrary, Mike often draws attention to them. He even occasionally mentions the work that goes into getting certain camera shots. A few episodes have been "behind the scenes" episodes devoted to telling the viewer everything that goes in to each episode.
No OSHA Compliance: An entire episode, titled "Safety Third," is devoted to how dangerous many of the jobs presented on the show are, and how in many cases the workers do their jobs without safety equipment or other precautions because it would make it much more time-consuming and difficult - if not outright impossible - to get the work done. During the episode, Mike also takes the time to point out that only once in the entire history of the show up to that point did a safety officer prevent him from operating a piece of machinery on the basis that he wasn't qualified and it would be unsafe.
Older than They Look: The pin-setting machine mechanic. Barsky is simply astonished that a guy who looks a bit younger than Mike is actually fifty (Mike: Do you two need some alone time?).
Once an Episode: Each episode ends with Mike asking the viewers to send in new jobs at the website.
Panthera Awesome: In one episode Mike helps take care of a Ti-Liger (which is the result of a tiger breeding with a liger, aka a lion and tiger hybrid) named Coby, and Mike is visibly uncomfortable being around her even after being told that she's like "a big puppy", especially since her jaws can crush bones.
Product Placement: Ford trucks, particularly noticeable in newer seasons (even if it's a 15-year-old sole Ford unit in an otherwise all-GM fleet). Mike Rowe is the current spokesman for Ford.
And he used to be a host on the QVC home shopping network, and says that they fired him three times for snarking about the products he was hawking on air. He later found out that the guys at MADtv loved to watch him to inspire their own subversive humor.
He'll also wear shirts and hats from previous jobs at other jobs.
Mike: Grab a sushi. The thing I like about it the most is that it's so very fresh!
The Real Heroes: As noted in the opening narration, the jobs Mike learns about are almost entirely blue-collar, always physically demanding, and often very unpleasant, to say the least—but many of them also make the luxuries industrialized society takes for granted possible.
No matter how much of a Deadpan Snarker Mike is during the rest of the show, there is always a moment where he takes time to recognize and thank the people that do these jobs with honest respect.
And just to show that he puts his money where his mouth is, he's even testified before Congress about the importance of the people doing the jobs he focuses on.
Mike often mentioned (even in a Discovery Channel station ID bumper) that he's there not to succeed, but to fail. His failures (often spectacular ones) illustrate the amount of skill required to do these jobs correctly.
Real Song Theme Tune: "We Care A Lot" by Faith No More. It was replaced on some episodes with a generic rock theme (based on the show's score) due to rights issues, but they've since been worked out.
Re Tool: Averted. The show has stuck fastidiously to its original premise, despite Mike's increasingly fervent pleas for new show ideas, and despite having to find some jobs that barely qualify, every now and again they come roaring back with a "Today I'm knee-deep in pig sh* t!" ep.
Road Apples: Mike may have dealt with poop from more types of animal than any other person on the planet.
May be an unintentional gag, but definitely running: over 200 jobs and Mike still cannot grasp the concept of 'righty-tighty, lefty-loosey'. If something needs to be tightened or loosened, Mike will, without fail, turn it the wrong way.
The "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" thing gets subverted when he's at a monkey sanctuary in South Africa during a lull while shooting for Shark Week - it's "righty-loosey, lefty-tighty".
Mike's "long term but uneasy" relationship with the Bobcat (a very specific kind of vehicle) is well known to fans.
During the episode set on a coffee plantation in Hawaii, Mike continually asks when he'll get his cup of coffee as the fruit of his labors. 12 hours later he finally gets it... half an hour before bedtime.
Sadist Show: One of the most popular episodes involves Mike being bitten by snakes. Multiple times.
Schmuck Bait: The Snake Farm, which Mike and the Crew found after seeing the sign on the side of the road and a sign saying they were closed for the day, so they decided to go inside. Among other things Mike wound up going into a rattlesnake pit.
Self-Deprecation: Mike is a master at this and allows for many of his mistakes to air, not to mention frequently snarking on himself throughout the normal action of any given show.
Guest: You're probably right-handed, aren't you.
Mike: It doesn't matter, I'm equally incompetent with either hand.
You could condense Mike's reaction to the hundreds of bizarre jobs he's done down to "You want me to do what? With my hands?!?"
Also repeated jabs at Discovery Channel, such as explaining "He's a camera man. For the Discovery Channel. There's nothing in his wallet", which doubles as Biting-the-Hand Humor.
Shirtless Scene: Several episodes include scenes of Mike with his shirt off. Some are completely gratuitous post-job cleanup shots, but occasionally the action of the job itself calls on him to sacrifice his shirt, as in the "Snake Wrangler" episode when the host needed it to use as a blindfold for the enormous alligator they were about to have to wrestle.
Mike: Why is my shirt off and why am I lying on another man who's lying on an alligator?
Side Bet: Mike sees the result of one such bet when he sees that one of the concrete workers is wearing a pink thong that's visible above his waistband. When he asks about it Mike finds out that it's because the guy made a bet about a football team and lost. Another guy was wearing nail polish for the same reason.
Ultimate Job Security: Some of the people featured mention liking their jobs because they're easy to hold onto. In particular, the airport runway painter joked that short of running the mayor over he's set until retirement.
In one episode, he's shown a vial of bull semen and, noting how surprisingly small it was, remarks that it's like a coffee stirrer; he then turns to the camera and adds "But it's not."
Universal Driver's License: Mike is constantly amazed at the range of vehicles people will hand him the keys for, but he usually manages a minimum level of competence given instruction and/or supervision by a skilled operator.