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David Poland

By David Poland

Imitation The Dirtiest Job?

There was a terrific little film at Sundance a couple of years ago that I still tell people about called Dirty Work. The film by David Sampliner and Tim Nackashi follows three men who deal with our unpleasant business — Darrell, a septic tank pumper, Russ, a bull semen collector, and Bernard, an embalmer.
So I get a promotional e-mail about a show called Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel and was kind of happy for the filmmakers… they obviously converted their doc into a series, a la Morgan Spurlock.
The TV show is kind of Spurlockian, but the doc filmmakers are not associated. More money for someone else. They know a good idea when they steal one. Sigh.
The Discovery Channel series is on Wednesday nights. And perhaps by coincidence, the doc, Dirty Work, is on Sundance Channel at 12:30a on Friday night… set those Tivos.

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72 Responses to “Imitation The Dirtiest Job?”

  1. bicycle bob says:

    u sure u don’t mean the dirty work starring norm mcdonald and artie lange?

  2. BluStealer says:

    30 Days is the phoniest show on television. They write out their story before hand and make sure it fits into their tight little bow. A young homophobic young man lives with a gay man in Frisco? How’s that going to turn out? You think they’re both going to learn from each other and become friends?
    A rich filmmaker lives on minimum wage for 30 days. You think he’ll realize that thats a hard job and is tough to do? You don’t say!

  3. Bruce says:

    Thanks to that jerk I still can’t eat McDonalds.

  4. jesse says:

    Blu, I think the point of the show is *how* those things happen, not really the outcome itself. Yes, the homophobe and the San Francisco guy will probably become friendly, and the guy living on minimum wage finds out it sucks… but that’s like saying “what’s the point of watching this action movie! I know the characters aren’t going to die unexpectedly!”
    I’ve seen the show a few times, and it’s interesting. At least it’s a reality show that has more going on than assembling people to snipe at each other and/or screw, ya know?
    Also, I thought on the binge-drinking episode, the teenager who was supposed to learn from the mother’s 30 days of binge drinking pretty much said that he didn’t change his mind about anything (I didn’t see it, so I don’t know for sure).

  5. Terence D says:

    If you have ever seen this show you would know it is very far from reality. He has an agenda and makes sure the show fits into that. It’s fine. I don’t think he’d even say its reality.

  6. bicycle bob says:

    i’d still rather watch the real dirty work with norm.

  7. Brett says:

    I’m pretty sure the genesis for this TV show has been around for a while. Not sure if it pre-dates the film or not though.
    The other thing I thought of was this;
    ‘I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!’

  8. LesterFreed says:

    Watching a bull semen employee at work is good tv? More like watching Fear Factor without the hot girls in bikini’s.

  9. Lota says:

    you can eat your egg mcmuffins with gusto Bruce, I do. Of all the major chains reviewed for breakfast junk food nationwide, the Egg mcmuffin comes out on top for “healthy junk food eating”. Unfortunately, the mcGriddles didn’t do so well. Neither did Hostess or Krispy Kremes, but I Still eat em.
    SPurlock didn’t put me off in the least. If you knew what was allowed in food re. nutritional quality or even safety/hygiene inspections, you wouldn’t be able to eat anything.
    Part of SPurlock’s problem is the combination af what he ate and the QUANTITY. If he supersized Dean & deluca he’d become unwell too (except he’s probably get Gout first).
    McDonald’s is actually pretty ‘sterile’ in how they do things.
    DOn’t ever read Fast Food Nation if Super Size Me put you off.

  10. Sanchez says:

    What thievery. I almost respect it.

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    Terence, what is his agenda? I’m curious because I’ve never seen the show. I know the premise, but that’s about it.

  12. LesterFreed says:

    You can eat one burger a day. Not twelve. It is like anything else. One beer won’t kill you. Ten a day would.

  13. Terence D says:

    Spurlock has his agenda on everyone of these shows. I have actually sat thru them all. I know, I need a life. He sets his conclusion before he even begins shooting. That’s a bad documentarian to me and not real. Take Super Size Me for example. What if after 30 days he was totally healthy. Nothing wrong. Where would his movie have been? He needed to throw McD’s under a bus to have an interesting movie. It’s understandable. Who doesn’t know eating huge amounts of fast food is abd for you?
    You should check out the show though to see for yourself. It’s not terrible. The gay episode was actually good and the binge drinking mom while dumb was interesting.

  14. Stella's Boy says:

    I’m still not sure what you mean by agenda. You mean that in every episode, he clearly has a preferred outcome that he carefully stears the show to? I don’t have cable. I’ll have to wait for DVD.

  15. Terence D says:

    That is what I’m saying. The episodes might look like it wants to be reality but everyone has a preconceived notion of where it is going to end and whats going to happen.
    You’re not missing anything. There is much better tv out there on dvd to watch. Especially on FX. Pick up Rescue Me, Nip Tuck and The Shield.

  16. Josh says:

    I hated this 30 Days show. Granted I onyl saw one dumb episode.
    Life is not good when you’re living on minimum wage. Thanks for the update, Morgan!
    He must have went to Harvard.

  17. bicycle bob says:

    i sorta want to see this dirty job doc now. i want to see how these people do these jobs.

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    Terence I am a huge, huge fan of Rescue Me. Outstanding show. Denis Leary is awesome. Nip/Tuck is quite good as well. Haven’t seen much of The Shield. I mean to, though.

  19. bicycle bob says:

    fx might have passed hbo in terms of programming. those 3 are unreal shows. all carried by the strongest casts on tv. great writing.

  20. BluStealer says:

    How the Emmy voters passed up all three for best drama is beyond my thinking. Denis Leary was the best actor on television the past year.

  21. Chester says:

    Terence D has indicted the whole live-chronicle format of documentaries like “Hoop Dreams” and “Spellbound.” After all, per Terence, why would anyone bother to follow people around if nothing particularly interesting may happen? Therefore, again per Terence, the whole game must be rigged from the outset.
    I watched every episode of “30 Days.” Certainly the constrains of its concept and format impacted each episode’s outcome, but to presume any of it was preordained is the height of partisan cynicism. A perfect example already cited above was the finale – the binge-drinking episode – where the woman’s daughter DID NOT CHANGE HER ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AT ALL! It was absolutely tragic to observe the girl’s naivete and self-denial, yet so obviously true to life. Was that a predictable outcome? In the real world, yes. But on TV, absolutely not. And that rare candid honesty – WHERE NOTHING HAPPENED AND THE MOTHER’S EFFORTS COMPLETELY FAILED – was precisely what made the episode so gripping.
    As for “Super Size Me,” of course (probably) nobody eats like that. (Although I’ve known people who come close.) But that wasn’t really the point. The point was to show the miserable nutritional value and long-term built-up effects of typical fast food, as well as the impact of its marketing, on our society. I mean, sheesh, how can you not be affected when you see that the super-sized sodas they are pushing CONTAIN SEVERAL FULL CUPS OF SUGAR? (Yeah, I know, you can always get Diet Coke…but is that a healthful option?) So I beg to differ with Lota in her comparison to Dean and Deluca. Sure, you can find unhealthy crap to eat everywhere (e.g., the organ-busting pates served at so many upscale establishments). But nobody is as subversively and effectively suckering us to ram it down our gullets as the fast-food industry.

  22. BluStealer says:

    If you actually read his post you would see he indicted lazy documentaries. And even lazier folks behind the camera. It doesn’t take much to actually read what someone has to say.

  23. Terence D says:

    I learned a long time ago on here that Chester is an instigator who really doesn’t have any opinions other than to try and bash people.
    Thanks for sticking up BluStealer. I avoid what he says anyway since I know he only wants to antagonize people.

  24. Bruce says:

    So now if you think that 30 Days is not good you’re into partisan cynicism? You just can’t like a show and think its fake to a degree?
    I don’t get how some people think.

  25. Chester says:

    When did I instigate and antagonize here, Terence? Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot that anyone who takes the time to present a detailed opinion that contradicts yours must be labeled an instigator and antagonist. How silly of me.
    You might try just once to be an adult and debate the points someone has made rather than responding with a personal attack.

  26. Stella's Boy says:

    It sure does suck when you feel like someone has put words in your mouth, or completely misunderstood what you said. No fun at all. Very frustrating.

  27. Chester says:

    Actually, looking over the board I see that my comments should not have been addressed just to Terence, but to BluStealer and Bruce as well. My apologies for singling out Terence.

  28. Terence D says:

    Chester, did you work on 30 Days or something? I think you should go back and read over what I actually said. Then maybe I’ll or anyone here will take what you say seriously. Instead of you just trying to instigate some controversy. We’re having good discussions without people like you lately.

  29. Josh says:

    If you actually watched 30 days you would see that it is a liberal show with liberal leanings. It’s not my cup of tea but to deny that Morgan Spurlock has his agenda and sets out to prove it is wrong.
    Just go through all the episodes:
    Couple living on minimum wage. Do you think that Morgan thinks this is hard and everyone should have government help and government medical care?
    2. Muslims in America. You think that Morgan is going to show that Mulsims are people too and the US needs to recognize that they’re not all terrorists?
    3. Straight/Gay Bonding session. You think Morgan doesn’t think that gays are people too and can get along with a homophobc jock man from the midwest?
    He has his agenda and it works for him. he has a tv show to prove it. But don’t deny it.

  30. bicycle bob says:

    The show is a phony. I hate repeating myself so look back to my post at 3pm on this page. 2nd Post down. Pretty much says whats on my mind about this show and what i think of his documentary style.
    Please don’t go comparing the people behind Hoop dreams to 30 Days. it is insulting to real documentary filmmakers. Documentary filmmakers who let the story take them from place to place. Not fitting the story into an already written story.

  31. Stella's Boy says:

    What’s wrong with recognizing that not all Muslims are terrorists? Isn’t that true? And maybe the jock really did come to see the gay man as a human being. That isn’t very hard to believe, considering they are just like everyone else.

  32. bicycle bob says:

    lets be clear about one thing. One mighty thing. hoop dreams is the best docu of all time. Not even close on that one.

  33. jeffrey boam's doctor says:

    Spurlock did not have a hand injury in the Minimum Wage episode – that was done for ‘drama’. There is a lot ‘done’ for drama in the series. The series is what Mark Burnett likes to call a scripted drama. The line between fact and fiction in documentary form has been squashed since the behemoth known as Michael Moore walked all over it on his way to producing one of the worst offenders ; Roger and Me. Since then, it’s pretty much acceptable to fabricate form to suit your purpose. Welcome to our reality.

  34. Terence D says:

    That is fine if it works out that way. If the person in the docu sees how people are and changes. But Spurlock has this in mind right from the start. He doesn’t leave room for the striaght guy to hate living in San Fran and hate gay lifestyle. It makes for nice and squeeky clean tv. But not great reality or docu.

  35. BluStealer says:

    How can someone call himself a documentarian if he/she has an agenda they want to put out there? That is lying and not telling the truth to your audience, right?
    Give me real. Don’t give me backroom fluff pieces to conform to what you want to say. That is called fiction.
    On that other point I don’t get the Sundance Chan. Wonder if it will be out on dvd?

  36. Bruce says:

    Added drama isn’t real. Makes for better tv to the uninformed masses though.
    I’m not a reality tv guy anyway. I think its all fake as it is.

  37. Terence D says:

    Michael Moore doesn’t make documentaries anymore. He makes movies. He is a storyteller.

  38. bicycle bob says:

    don’t bring up the fat man. It’ll bring the lefty libs out in force to protect their god. reason and sanity will go right out the window.

  39. Josh says:

    Moore has been known to fudge the facts to further his own benefit. Much like Spurlock is doing now. He is just not as blatant about it. Spurlocks show actually had memos on it.

  40. BluStealer says:

    I really love good documentary films. They’re usually interesting and informative. But this force fed stuff is hard to watch. I guess if you’re into that kind of stuff it works out great.

  41. LesterFreed says:

    You do realize Hoop Dreams didn’t win the Best Doc award? Now if that ain’t the biggest sin in the history of the Awards then I don’t know what is. Highway robbery.

  42. Lota says:

    Lester Hoop Dreams wasn’t even nominated, that was the sin. It was nom in the 95′ awards i think for editing.

  43. Josh says:

    I heard they made a follow up or sequel per say. Anyone know anything about it?

  44. bicycle bob says:

    yea. it didn’t even get a nom. When it should have been a best picture nominee. Unreal on the whole.
    i kept up with the guys who were in the film. they’ve both had tough lives so far. But they seem to be normal and well adjusted.

  45. Chester says:

    JBD, how do you know Spurlock staged his hand injury in the first episode? If that’s true, I’ll be the first to say the show is worthless and Spurlock should never be allowed to work in this town again.
    As for all of the comments here about the “predictable outcomes” of the shows, I’ll make two points. First, saying that an outcome is “predictable” does not mean it was staged. If a warm front takes over a cold front, the resulting rain is predictable. But it’s not staged.
    Which leads to point #2: Just because something is predictable does not mean it has no dramatic value. Putting combustible elements together will predictably cause an explosion. Putting water on a fire will predictably extinguish the flames. Haven’t we all seen plenty of examples of such predictable outcomes that also have tremendous dramatic value?
    It all depends on the circumstances and the execution. One of the great things about documentaries (and film in general) is their ability to show us things we may have heard of but have never seen before. So, yeah, you may think that it’s predictable that a fundamentalist Christian who goes to live within a Muslem community may learn to respect them. Ditto for a homophobe who spends a month in the Castro district. But it’s not just about the expected outcome. It’s also about the journey that takes you there. And it’s about grounding anecdotes, theories and policies into a tangible reality.
    Sure, no question that the “30 Days” format is a stunt. But IMHO it’s a high-quality, effective one.

  46. jeffmcm says:

    I haven’t seen the show, but based on Super Size Me I would say that Spurlock is a shallow sensationalist with no real interest beyond making money.

  47. Sanchez says:

    Super Size Me was just crap. I had two burgers right after to prove him wrong.

  48. Stella's Boy says:

    Damn, Sanchez, you really showed him who’s boss. I bet he is still pissed about that. Good one.

  49. BluStealer says:

    When I watch a documentary I want to see a world I don’t usually get to see. I don’t want to be manipulated. I want to take it all in and make up my own mind about it.

  50. jeffm says:

    Prove him wrong how? Obviously you aren’t dead…yet.

  51. Mark says:

    Let’s see. What normal person eats 3 fast food meals a day and doesn’t expect to not be healthy after eating that kind of diet? Common sense is right out the window.

  52. BluStealer says:

    Fat people.
    Out of shape people.
    People who don’t care.
    People who are addicted.

  53. Sanchez says:

    I’m going to have a Big Mac now. Take that Morgan Spurlock. And Fries. And a shake.

  54. Chester says:

    BluStealer, I don’t see how Spurlock manipulated anyone. Based on the frankness of the episodes themselves, I think a lot of viewers of “30 Days” might have seen things differently than the filmed participants. For example, I expect a lot of viewers (not me) might have been genuinely alarmed/offended by the gay and Islamic cultures/lifestyles that were depicted. Just because the participants arrived at one conclusion didn’t necessarily mean that you had to come to the same one.

  55. BluStealer says:

    You think you’re watching a real reality documentary. When in turn you are really watching a semi scripted drama. Not saying its not good tv. It may well be. But not my cup of tea. That’s manipulation to me.

  56. Angelus21 says:

    I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I mean come on. The guy ate McDonalds all month. Obviously its not healthy. He grow up on Mars?

  57. Panda Bear says:

    I saw that Dirty Jobs docu. It was really good. Sucks watching people do those jobs. That is why you go to school and get an education.

  58. Chester says:

    Until someone can present some solid proof that Spurlock told his participants what to say and how to react, all the assertions on this page that he scripted the show are just a bunch of unfounded BS.

  59. BluStealer says:

    From the Wall Street Journal:
    Morgan Spurlock got famous from his Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me.” He ingested big McDonald’s meals three times a day for 30 days, then blamed McDonald’s for his bloated body and dodgy health. Now he’s using his 30-day premise to get Americans to ingest his version of radical Islam on cable’s FX Network.
    Last year, I received a request to appear on Mr. Spurlock’s new reality show, “30 Days.” The episode for which I was being recruited, “Inside an American Muslim Family,” airs next Wednesday. It features Mr. Spurlock’s childhood friend from West Virginia, David Stacy, spending 30 days “living as a Muslim” in the Detroit area.
    While Mr. Spurlock is often referred to as a journalist, and touts “30 Days” as a “documentary,” the outcome of the show was decided before production began. A show summary sent to me before taping said: “This process aims to deconstruct common misconceptions and stereotypes. . . . Our character will learn firsthand about Islam and the daily issues that . . . Muslims in America face today. The viewers will witness our character emerge from the immersion situation with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Muslim-American experience. . . . The potential is great for this program to enlighten a national television audience about the Muslim American experience and increase their compassion, understanding and support.”
    And indeed, The Wall Street Journal’s own Dorothy Rabinowitz, writing about the show last week from a preview tape, noted that Mr. Stacy, by the end of his 30 days, “has become so enlightened that he is pronouncing, if incomprehensibly, on the meaning of Islam, his knowledge of the Quran, the real definition of jihad.”

  60. BluStealer says:

    I asked the show

  61. BluStealer says:

    That good enough proof for you, Chester, or do we need Spurlock on tape admitting he killed Kennedy with the CIA, the mob, and Castro?

  62. joefitz84 says:

    I figured he was fitting the stories into neat little bows that conform to his liberal ideas. But don’t call it reality. It is insulting to reality.

  63. Sanchez says:

    Burger number 3. Super Size this! I should try White Castle. Smaller burgers.

  64. Chester says:

    BluStealer, that was surprisingly strong, effective stuff. And I thank you for being the first person to respond with something other than a personal attack on me.
    There are a lot of worthy issues raised in the WSJ article you reprinted. For example, might it not have been better for Spurlock to send in someone more knowledgeable about Islam than the seemingly gullible tabula rasa he chose? If not, shouldn’t Spurlock and his crew at least have made some effort to direct Stacy to some of the radical Hamas and Hezbollah supporters in the Detroit area? Those are valid questions and are good evidence of bias on Spurlock’s part.
    But I can’t say the author of the WSJ piece itself can be fully trusted since most of what he presents is dubious hearsay and obvious spin (e.g., when was Stacy in any way depicted as a newly educated “expert” on Islam?). As for the quotes he provided from the show summary, I see nothing wrong with a stated goal of deconstructing typical notions and enlightening people about Muslims in America. After all, isn’t that what documentarians do – deconstruct and enlighten?
    I think people who watch these shows have to have reasonable expectations. There is probably no way any journalist, documentarian or reality show is ever going to get anywhere near a terrorist cell on U.S. soil. Similarly, it’s highly doubtful that a straight guy would be immersed into the wilder side of San Francisco’s gay scene. So this kind of network show is often limited to skimming the surface. Certainly that’s not deep enough to be considered the last word on any given subject, but IMHO it’s still worth watching because it’s a surface most viewers have never been exposed to before.

  65. Mark says:

    As long as it entertaining tv he can really do what he wants.

  66. Joe Leydon says:

    Bicycle Bob: “Dirty Work” was the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. I still laugh whenever I remember Norm McDonald casually addressing the hookers: “All right, prostitutes…”
    BTW: If you liked “Hoop Dreams — and, really, what reasonably sentient adult couldn’t like “Hoop Dreams,” right? — try to catch “Go Tigers!” on homevid. Great doc about small-town high-school footballers. Can’t help but think the makers of “Friday Night Lights” screened that one a few times before they made their own movie.

  67. Sanchez says:

    The Saigon whore bit off my nose!!

  68. Joe Leydon says:

    Sanchez: Yeah, Chris Farley. Gone but not forgotten.

  69. joefitz84 says:

    Farley was a God. Damn shame.

  70. jeffmcm says:

    I don’t want to defend Spurlock since I don’t think he’s that great, but, you guys all do understand that there’s no such thing as a truly objective documentary/reality program, right? Shooting and editing always have some tiny amount of bias in them in some direction. There’s a lot of variation, but still…

  71. Rory says:

    Talk about Farley, and watch the conservatives come out in force. To discuss and praise their GOD! A-ha.
    Also, Mike Rowe needed a show on Discovery at some point. He’s the bloody voice of the network. About time they gave him a show. Where he rolls around in other people’s waste.
    Sigh? I dont think that deserves a sigh.

  72. jeffmcm says:

    It’s really funny how the conversation magically evolved from Super Size Me to Chris Farley, in a completely organic way.
    Ah, sweet beautiful irony.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon