By Don Kaplan in the New York Post
THE hottest thing on TV is not British ac tors who can speak with an American accent or shows about remembering song lyrics.
It’s red-meat reality shows starring men who have no plans to buy an iPhone and don’t care if Harry Potter dies in the final book.
They drive trucks, survive the wilderness, shovel deer guts and pluck king crabs from the killer waters of the North Pacific.
The shows have names like “Dirty Jobs,” “Ice Road Truckers,” “Man Vs. Wild” and “Deadliest Catch.”
No one seems more surprised about the explosion of he-man TV than the people who make the shows.
“We managed to tap into something in the male psyche that really appeals to them,” says Jeff Hasler, the development and production chief at the Discovery Channel, where “Deadliest Catch” and “Dirty Jobs” are the most-watched shows on the network.
Like watching NASCAR races waiting for a crash, viewers seem drawn to shows in which (mostly) guys take incredible chances to bring home a small fortune.
“Risk is the currency,” says “Dirty Jobs” creator and star Mike Rowe, who crisscrosses the U.S. showing – and pitching in on – some of the grossest and most-dangerous occupations on earth.
Rowe could recently be seen shoveling vats of liquefied deer hair and guts at a leather tannery and nearly getting crushed to death in a marble mine. (The worst job he ever tried was chicken sexing, he says. Don’t ask.)
“Crab fishing is a perfect example,” says Rowe – who also doubles as the narrator for “Deadliest Catch.”
“Some of these guys take home $40,000 a week,” he says. “But the mortality rate for their job is off the charts. At least six fishermen die every year.
“The [insurance projection] report I once looked at read like a prophecy.”
On The History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers” – the most-watched series that network has ever had – men drive 18-wheelers over a frozen lake in sub-zero temperatures and brutal snow storms to deliver equipment and supplies to diamond miners.
In “Man vs. Wild,” former British Special Forces soldier Bear Grylls risks his life to offer viewers tips about how to survive getting lost in scorching deserts, deadly swamps and frozen mountaintops.
“Survivorman” star Les Stroud does the same thing – only he works alone with a hand-held camera. No namby-pamby production team following him around.
Not surprisingly, the cable networks are cranking out new he-man shows as fast they can.
A new show set to debut next fall is called “Last Man Standing” – in which Western athletes subject themselves to native tribal rituals deep in the rainforest.
“The gap between blue collar and white collar jobs keeps getting wider,” says Rowe. “At the end of a work day, a ditch digger can show progress – a ditch.
“I guarantee you,” he says, “that your desk at work will look basically the same as it did when you went into work this morning.
“There’s a certain satisfaction involved in doing these kind of risky jobs and [viewers] probably get to enjoy a little of that satisfaction by watching shows that highlight these jobs,” says Rowe.
The fans are not just Blue Staters who think bass-fishing tournaments make great TV.
Ratings tend to show that women like them just as much as men – in no small part because the he-man stars seem to them more unaffected and real than the McDreamys or Simon Cowells of the current TV landscape.
“Many of these shows have dedicated female and young viewers,” says Hasler. “The ratings prove that, so in my book it’s really a new kind of family entertainment.”