Episode 23 – Highway Through Hell

 

This episode: Highway Through Hell, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 10.  Watch it on Netflix.

Next episode: The Fashion Hero, Season 1.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

This month Mike and JS take their inaugural voyage into JS’s favorite reality TV subgenre with the Canadian show, Highway Through Hell, which follows the travails and triumphs of a ‘heavy rescue’ towing company that works a particularly treacherous yet important stretch of highway in British Columbia.

We go into the usual topics: concept, characters, authenticity, appeal, etc as well as discussing JS’s love for the ‘blue-collar’ genre and his experiences in a blue-collar workplace.  Mike, on the other hand, has some criticisms regarding the lack of interpersonal heft in some of the workplace scenes that take place away from the crash sites and the show’s overall worldview.  We also analyze the show through the lens of an article covering the linkage between ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and ‘occupational reality TV’ and discuss the role of nostalgia in the appeal of ‘men’s soaps’ as well as the shifting nature of masculinity in the post-industrial service economy.  Finally, there are some asides on the prominence of ‘car culture’ in North America and the interesting role that the ‘omniscient’ narrator plays in shaping the worldview of the show.

[Also, as a minor coda, Mike’s audio is a touch choppy in a couple parts for some reason.  Apologies and hopefully it will not be too distracting.]

Show Notes and Links

1:17 / Mike apologizes to our two listeners for the delay on the last episode

1:56 / Introducing this month’s show with some Wikipedia humor

2:49 / Does JS have a soft spot for this sub-genre?  (We mention the show Dirty Jobs)

4:03 / Our personal feelings on the show

4:45 / The concept for the show

7:37 / Discussing Jamie Davis, the owner (and implied POV character)

9:52 / Moving into the main employees

12:01 / Going over the ‘bit players’ and Jamie’s son, Brandon

15:27 / The tractor trailer drivers are a secondary character in the show

16:28 / Two modes of the show: Crash sites and workplace politics

17:18 / Mike thought the relationship aspect of the show was weak because the people seemed too one-dimensional for him to invest in (our episode on TOWIE is here)

19:08 / JS had different expectations, didn’t mind that it was focused on the work and the business

19:56 / JS’s experience with blue-collar workers and his theory as to why the show didn’t delve into the personal lives of the workers

21:53 / Delving into the authenticity of the show; there seemed to be a dichotomy between the crash scenes and the ‘office’ scenes (our Alaskan Bush People episode is here)

24:08 / Mike wasn’t convinced by the confrontation between Kevin and Jamie or the rivalry between Jamie and Al

25:33 / JS agrees the rivalry was exaggerated, but thought Kevin’s reaction jived with his experiences in a blue-collar workplace

26:56 / Mike can’t imagine having an outburst like Kevin at his job

28:03 / JS thinks that a good blue-collar worker can get another job fairly easily in the worst-case scenario of getting fired

28:56 / Are these types of outbursts just associated with blue-collar work or is Mike just very cautious in his disposition?

30:18 / This show hit the predictable narrative ‘beats’ in terms of a typical ‘blue-collar’ reality show (JS mentions Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers)

33:17 / Segueing into the article for this month: “The working class heroes: analyzing hegemonic masculinity in occupational reality TV”, Nathan Blair, The Plymouth Student Scientist, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2013 (analyzing the UK show Trawlermen)

34:45 / Talking about the concept of the ‘retributive man’ and how these shows recast working-class identity in terms of an individualistic masculinity (Mike mentions socialist realism)

36:52 / These shows praise working-class men in an abstract sense, but not in a way that would challenge the socioeconomic hierarchy

38:00 / JS thinks there is a certain ‘blue-collar mentality’ of wanting to ‘get things done’ without ‘asking questions’ that dovetails with the worldview of ‘blue-collar TV’

39:06 / Jamie as an ideal of both blue-collar worker and scrappy entrepreneur

40:21 / Jamie as someone who can appeal to both blue-collar and white-collar people as well as both the ‘retributive’ and ‘new’ man

41:44 / Mike was disappointed in how the show dealt with the emotional fallout of this line of work, thought the show pulled back when things got interesting (our Paris Hilton BFF Dubai episode)

44:00 / Brandon’s earrings: A subversion of traditional masculinity or an evolution of it?

46:06 / Blue-collar men and cultural conservatism

47:11 / The show’s unrelenting emphasis on stoicism

49:00 / Is the ‘retributive man’ ideal more closely linked to blue-collar men in the globalized, white-collar, post-industrial economy?

50:31 / Getting even more meta: How watching this for the podcast affected Mike’s viewing of the show

51:06 / The specificity of ‘car culture’ to North America (Although the amount of vehicles in the US and Italy is apparently much closer than we thought)

54:22 / How the highway-centric transportation system relates to the ‘heroic positioning’ of the show’s narrative

55:26 / Mike was struck by the visceral and spectacular nature of the crash footage, mentions J.G. Ballard’s Crash

56:45 / This show’s nostalgic appeal reminded Mike of Dual Survival

58:17 / Comparing and contrasting this show with Dirty Jobs

1:02:14 / Jamie as a modern version of the Jeffersonian ‘yeoman farmer’

1:03:20 / Circling back to the article: the linkage between the decline of traditional masculinity and the rise of the post-industrial service economy

1:04:50 / Discussing the role of the narrator and comparing the narrative voice to Bridezillas and Blind Date

1:08:46 / Circling back to the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:09:38 / Mike found this less offensive than certain other masculine reality shows, but brought some baggage that was shaped like a certain Orange-American

1:11:55 / Mike’s own worldview about work is the opposite of this show

1:12:43 / JS thinks there is a different sort of pride and tangibility associated with physical labor

1:14:39 / Introducing the next couple shows: Fashion Hero and The Four: Battle for Stardom (seriously, though, don’t watch the Four – it’s terrible)

1:16:45 / Sending us out with the customary announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

 

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