BY Richard Huff
DAILY NEWS TV EDITOR
Mike Rowe built an empire on highlighting tough but everyday jobs, and now he’s looking for his next one.
His contract for “Dirty Jobs” expires after the season he’s about to start filming, and it’s up in the air whether he’ll continue with the show. Rowe is considering his options – and how they will affect his life, endorsements, charitable ventures and other interests.
“It’s just the weirdness of it,” he says, “to sit in the president’s office of a major network and having that president lean in and say, ‘We’ve been thinking about it, we have your next project, and it’s ‘blankety, blank, blank With Mike Rowe.’”
Rowe says the idea of having a show built around him can be flattering, but he also realizes that big networks won’t give him the kind of nurturing he’s had at Discovery. So it would be a gamble.
“There’s a ton of opportunity,” he says. “Personally, I feel the themes around jobs, and the themes around the business I’ve been able to build, are more interesting than replacing Charlie Sheen – not that I’ve been offered that.”
Rowe already has a lot of work. Besides “Dirty Jobs,” he narrates “Deadliest Catch” and also is narrator of “Human Planet,” a series on humans that starts Sunday at 8 p.m. on Discovery.
Likewise, his “Dirty Jobs” franchise has spawned a foundation, mikeroweWORKS, which supports blue-collar and skilled trades. He’s been able to branch out into endorsement deals with Ford, Lee Jeans and others.
“‘Human Planet’ was interesting to me because, frankly, there’s a tendency in natural history programming to demonize our species,” he says. “This is the first one where humans are being portrayed as something other than polluters or poachers.”
Rowe will soon appear at a Senate hearing to talk about jobs.
“I’m going to basically deliver the same message I always do,” Rowe says. “We’re focused on creating jobs, the same kind of jobs we’ve been busy disparaging.”
Rowe got into the “Dirty Jobs” field while trying to create a job for himself. The show emerged from a special he pitched to Discovery as a way to get his hard-working father to have more respect for his son’s “soft” television career.
“I’m so far up to my eyes in personal irony, and optimism, in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of thing,” he says. “More than anything, it just speaks to the absence of credible voices in the space, that I could somehow be ordained to be the guy the Senate calls.”
He’s not complaining. Apart from his financial success, he’s able to point to real accomplishments in moving products for sponsors, and getting people on board with his jobs programs. He hopes for a similar impact with a breast-cancer awareness campaign he’s shot with his mother, a survivor of the disease.
And now he’s considering his own future.
“We’re at the classic inflection point, the tipping point,” Rowe says. “If we go forward with more of these ['Dirty Jobs'], or open the show up to different kinds of work, or do something different altogether. It’s all on the table for smarter people to figure out.”
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