For six seasons on Discovery Channel, “Dirty Jobs” has sent host Mike Rowe — who originally came up with the idea of a show about grimy but necessary occupations — down many unpleasant holes, through amazingly nasty passages and into the bowels of any number of greasy machines desperately in need of cleaning.
One place Rowe has not yet gone is the executive producer seat of his very own show (at least it will be cleaner).
This past weekend, he attended Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo, Calif., an event that brings together thousands of people who share a love of creating and making things, from robots to rockets and DIY biology.
Rowe was there at the invitation of TechShop, a membership-based DIY workshop and fabrication studio that charges “makers” of all skill levels a monthly fee to use its high-tech equipment and instruction to turn their fanciful notions into hard reality (probably delighting a few spouses who no longer have to wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of a circular saw out in the garage or down in the basement).
Fascinated by the idea of TechShop and some of the creations that have come out of it, Rowe started to mull over how it could be turned into a TV show.
“All of this [about TechShop] I knew a year ago,” says Rowe, calling into Zap2it shortly after landing in Dallas, his next stop after Maker Faire on Sunday, May 22. “I just wasn’t sure what to do with it. I don’t really want to impersonate an executive producer of a TV show unless I’m really committed to doing it.
“We really wound up liking the guys who founded the whole enterprise. We just told them, ‘No guarantees, but I’m not going to just hand you over to a production company that throws lots and lots of mud against the wall just to see what sticks.
“I want to give it the most honest shot I can and find the right home for it.”
Rowe is still thinking about what the format would be.
“I’m not really sure what the show is,” he says. “It doesn’t have to all be in the TechShop. I want to go find these people at home, meet them. What’s the idea? Where’s all this passion coming from?
“Frankly, if I were king of the world and had my own network, I’d have a show called ‘Shut Up and Make it,’ and it would celebrate the business of getting around R&D and getting around all the endless detours of getting a good idea into the marketplace, but not in a competition model, not with a lot of manufactured music, not with a lot of bulls–t and drama and all that other stuff.”
Rowe sees this as the logical next step from “‘Dirty Jobs” and his website, www.mikeroweWORKS.com, which is billed as “A PR Campaign for Hard Work.”
“In the same way that the definition of a good job is up for grabs over the last few years,” says Rowe, “I think the definition of an entrepreneur is about to change, too. It’s one of the things I saw on ‘Dirty Jobs’ years ago, but we didn’t hit it too hard.
“The truth is, if you look at ‘Dirty Jobs,’ so many people think it’s just about workers out there making little rocks out of big rocks…. If you look at that show, how many people are working for themselves or started a small business? The answer is, the majority of them.
“The willingness to get dirty and take risks is the thing, in my opinion, anyway, that makes ‘Dirty Jobs’ interesting and is the thing that’s worth celebrating.
“I bet those two basic themes also exist in TechShop, or ‘Shut Up and Make it,’ or whatever it is. You like it? I kind of like it, too.
“We’re just sniffing around. I don’t know where it should be, where it should air.”