Here's Some Reality

April 26, 2013

I got a call from a TV reality show production company in California. The guy wanted to know if I had heard of anyone who “jousted” or otherwise engaged in metal-to-metal combat with construction equipment. His company thinks there’s a possible market for such a show; in fact, he said there’s a “level of interest from several networks.”

Picture “Jackass” on tracks, I guess.

Bad idea. And I told him so, even though it’s fun to think about an operator triumphantly jumping down from a cab, throwing his hardhat and yelling at the crowd, “Are you not entertained?!

Obviously, there are safety problems. I’m only scratching the surface, but you might see hydraulic oil from ruptured hoses flying all over the place. And there’s the fact that ROPS and FOPS only will go so far in protecting operators. You really don’t want to apply today’s torque and hydraulic power against another human being, no matter what kind of a machine he’s sitting in or what it might be plated with to make it look tough for TV.

There’s also the issue of equipment availability. One of the reasons we’re assaulted with so much reality TV is that it’s far cheaper to produce than traditional series' programming, so it’s doubtful the show would buy its own equipment.

What manufacturer in their right mind is going to donate iron only to watch it being destroyed? Who wants their name associated with unsafe practices? Not even the most desperate marketer. Rental is a problem, too. Imagine slinking back to the rental yard with an excavator with a boom that’s been used for jousting. Yep, you just bought it, along with some hefty legal fees.

After I finished leaking diesel fuel on this gentleman’s parade, I tried to pitch him to give us a little something we can be proud of as an industry. There’s already enough bad stuff going on out there.

My idea: profile a fleet manager or contractor who has to solve a myriad of problems every day to get jobs done, despite economic, competitive, mechanical, regulatory and other issues.

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. In a previous life, I occasionally had to review footage from Discovery Channel's “Swamp Loggers” before it aired to make sure a certain piece of equipment was being portrayed in a proper and safe light.

That show covers the challenges logger Bobby Goodson has to go through in the course of his work, such as downtime, weather, property line disputes, pressure to produce—it’s all there. The show is much more compelling than any trumped-up MMA with skid steers because it takes you inside an interesting job that not too many people know about. It’s a matter of reality versus what I like to call “arranged reality.”

Don’t think it will sell? “Swamp Loggers” has been on for four seasons.

Come back to me when you can do better, Mr. Producer.

About the Author

Frank Raczon

Raczon’s writing career spans nearly 25 years, including magazine publishing and public relations work with some of the industry’s major equipment manufacturers. He has won numerous awards in his career, including nods from the Construction Writers Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and BtoB magazine. He is responsible for the magazine's Buying Files.