'Deadliest Catch' producer taken down by Comedy Central star Daniel Tosh
As producer of such docu-series as "Ice Road Truckers," "Axe Men" and "Deadliest Catch," Thom Beers has seen plenty of danger.
But nothing so scary as preceding Comedy Central star Daniel Tosh at a Winter TV Press Tour 2011 Q&A session.
Seated on stage at the end of a row of panelists who'd come to plug his new show about coal miners, Beers waxes eloquent at The Reporters Who Cover Television about how the country is losing its soul to Wall Street while people who work treacherous blue-collar jobs, like those he documents on his series, represent the real America. Beers has made a bundle churning out wildly popular docu-reality series about rough-and-tumble guys who have dangerous jobs, including the aforementioned titles and more.
"Nobody's actually ever been in these holes," Beers says with pride of "Coal," which will air on the Viacom-owned young-guy-centric Spike cable network. "Coal" follows miners who spend their days crawling around a damp, dark, 33-inch tall mine shaft at in the Cobalt Mine in Westchester, West Virginia.
"This is an opportunity to open up something, to a bunch of guys who risk their lives, day in and day out...These are the guys that put the light in those light bulbs," says Beers, who is dressed in one of those carefully casual outfits intended to suggest man-of-the-people-ness.
"Also, the kind of coal these guys are digging out now - they basically build the steel for your cars. So, in essence, this is the very root, the very genius, of what makes America great."
One TV critic wants to know how much money these miners - three of whom are on the panel with Beers -- make. Cobalt CEO Mike Crowder, who is also among the panelists, says their salaries start out at about $18 an hour, the average worker makes around $28 an hour, and more experienced guys "can make more than that." A careless in the matter of counting calories has robbed Crowder of a waist -- he looks like a coal miner who has swollen up after being left out in the rain too long.
In stark contrast, seated immediately to his left, scraggy Colbalt miner/foreman Robert Jerry "Wildman" Edwards -- a guy who looks like he's drunk from the cup of life and found a dead toad at the bottom -- says he took on the grueling work because "if you want your kids to grow up poor and not have nothing, you can get you a job working at Walmart."
"If you want your kids to have nice clothes and eat good and drive a new car...then you work in the coal mine," he says, adding, "I want my kids having new clothes and new shoes, new cars - whatever."
While the reporters and TV critics mull whether they'd work in a dark, damp 33-inch mine shaft for a new car, another panelist -- miner Lonnie Christian, Sr. -- says his worst fear is that he'll get black lung disease.
"If you stay in the industry long enough, you know, you are surely going to die one way or another. One mistake, you will probably never make another one. If you live long enough and you don't have accidents, than the black lung will kill you eventually."
Cobalt CEO Crowder says he's agreed to let Beers film his miners at work because the show will "give exposure to the Cobalt Mine, which we felt would help improve shareholder confidence in our company." Additionally, he explained, "we felt we could mutually, financially benefit with some of the equipment manufacturing companies" after a couple of them approached Cobalt and said "We'd like to be that company that people see."
But nobody thinks to ask Beers what HE's paid the miners for their services as poor players upon the stage of his latest TV series. Beers doesn't bring it up. He does, however, talk at great length about how, 11 year ago when he and some other guys were "stuck on a shipwreck up in the Bering Sea..in the middle of a storm" and was living on the beach, in tent...trying to salvage this ship, when all of a sudden some wild bears coming out of hibernation started coming after him on the beach and his only recourse was to get back into the boat lying on its side and "rocking like crazy" in the storm and he looks up on the wall and someone had written in chalk the words "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space" and how "I always kind of think about that and that's what this is."
"These are guys that risk their lives day in and day out to bring you a needed service....to make America great," Beers continues, warming up to his theme. "To me -- they're heroes. And...the whole idea of spending time with them and with their families and their job - it's an honor."
Soon thereafter, Daniel Tosh, star of Viacom-owned Comedy Central's hit "Tosh.0" gets up on the same stage to talk about his show.
The impish Tosh wasn't happy about the size of the crowd in the Pasadena hotel ballroom. In fairness, it was a pretty puny turnout, what with it being the first day of Winter TV Press Tour 2011 - Oprah wasn't scheduled to show up until the next day.
"Did everybody bail after the coal miners?" Tosh cracks, looking like he's about to start something - you've seen him give that look on his show, just as he's about to skewer someone and their stab-at-fame video clip.
"Could you tell how rich, on the coal miner panel, the last guy was in comparison?" Tosh continues.
"Pick the guy who is not the coal miner!" Tosh's exec producer Charlie Siskel joins in on the fun.
"Woo!" shrieks Tosh.
Lisa de Moraes
| January 6, 2011; 11:13 AM ET
Categories: Winter TV Press Tour 2011
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