“America’s Toughest Jobs”
Mondays at 9 p.m.
1.5 out of 5 stars
What’s more difficult: working on a crab boat or watching people work on a crab boat?
NBC’s “America’s Toughest Jobs” centers on 13 contestants competing for a growing pot of money while working some of the most grueling jobs in the United States. Hosted by Josh Temple (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) — the new Joe Rogan — the show seems to be operating under the guise of informing the public about these dangerous jobs. In reality, it’s nothing more than obvious, spoon-fed drama.
For their first task, the 13 men and women traveled to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to go crab fishing. (It turns out that their main activities were vomiting and proclaiming the difficulty of their job as they tried to maneuver cumbersome crab catchers.) But as dangerous as crab fishing may be, it doesn’t make for good television. If you wouldn’t want to work the job, why would you want to watch it?
The contestants on “Toughest Jobs” are a pretty eclectic bunch, ranging from the hippie carpenter with dreadlocks to a wimpy Wall Street executive who can’t lift 40 pounds of bait, yet signed up for the show anyway. Why would anyone who isn’t in peak physical condition agree to do this show when it’s obvious the younger, stronger contestants will be victorious? Maybe the older contestants feel the need to test their boundaries, but haven’t they heard of skydiving lessons? Then again, there’s no money-making opportunity in skydiving.
Despite the fact that both men and women compete on the show, “Toughest Jobs” makes no effort to make the genders equal. In fact, the idea of women being weaker than men is rather unabashed. For example, in the second episode, Temple asks with a sneer how the two female competitors driving freight trucks (or “Team Lady Truck”) performed.
The pace of the show is entirely too fast. In the first three minutes of the pilot, Temple explains the premise and dumps the audience in the middle of the Bering Sea with the 13 contestants, leaving little time to hear the contestants’ backgrounds or get a feel for the show. The result is a rushed, contrived episode which leaves the audience stranded.
The prize system of “Toughest Jobs” isn’t anything we’ve seen before: Instead of a set amount of money awaiting the winner at the end of the series, the money the contestants “earn” on the job goes into an account which grows with every episode. This begs the question: How cheap is NBC that they’re making the job sites provide prize money?
Many will call this a rip-off of “Dirty Jobs,” but the two shows shouldn’t be compared. There’s a light-hearted approach to “Dirty Jobs” which “Toughest Jobs” clearly lacks. “Toughest Jobs” is an hour of non-stop stress and anxiety, which makes it exhausting to watch with little reward for the viewer. The spectacle of public physical struggle is only fresh for so long.
The vibe of “Toughest Jobs” is one in which drama and excitement are anything but subtle, and yet still not enough to hold an audience’s attention. The escapism and easy entertainment craved on a Monday night isn’t found here, making “Toughest Jobs” the last thing anyone wants to watch after a long day.