Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Here's a job he can really sink his teeth into

Mike Rowe dives into Discovery Channel's Shark Week with shows about working among the fearsome beasts.

July 29, 2006|Holly E. Thomas | Washington Post

Swimming 55 feet underwater with sharks in the midst of a feeding frenzy was plenty exciting for Shark Week host Mike Rowe. But when he ran out of oxygen during a test dive the night before filming, the thrill turned into a near miss that will linger in his mind long after the week has ended.

"I'm highly agitated, there are sharks everywhere, and when I try to use someone's buddy regulator, I realize that I can't get my helmet off. I finally surfaced over a minute later," Rowe said.

"I got my two worst underwater fears -- running out of air and being bitten by sharks -- all at the same time."

Rowe, befitting his regular gig as host of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" series, experiences more than his fair share of eye-opening, gross-out moments as host of the network's 19th annual ode to sharks. In Sunday's kickoff episode, "Dirty Jobs: Jobs That Bite," Rowe climbs into a shark cage to meet and greet great whites; he also tests his skills at protecting public beaches alongside South African "shark spotters."

And in Friday's "Dirty Jobs: Jobs That Bite Harder," Rowe teams up with Jeremiah Sullivan -- who invented an armored "shark suit" for humans -- to learn how to repair one of the suits. The pair then tests the suit's mettle by creating a feeding frenzy among Caribbean reef sharks, diving into the water and letting one try to take a bite.

"I've done 100 'Dirty Jobs,' and every one has a moment when that 'fish out of water' feeling comes to you," Rowe said. "Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's just really dirty and sometimes it's genuinely scary. This was one of the scary ones."

With the second season of "Dirty Jobs" in full swing and scores of unsavory jobs under his belt, Rowe brings the spotlight around to familiar territory as he performs a necropsy (an animal autopsy) on a 9-foot tiger shark and spends an afternoon making shark repellent from shark remains. It's all in a day's work for someone whose hosting routine has included collecting roadkill and mining marble from a Colorado quarry.

"We didn't have crystal-clear direction, but we knew we wanted that 'Dirty Jobs' mentality," Rowe said.

"Basically, our instructions were, 'Go out, find the sharks, get dirty and have fun.' And that's what we did."

The scary stories and close calls of Shark Week may keep viewers away from the beaches, but the programming should teach folks a little something too. The week's specials cover topics such as sharks' evolution and mating habits.

Discovery Channel general manager Jane Root said one of the goals of this year's programming is to make viewers question what they know about sharks and to think about their relationship with the often-feared fish.

"There are a lot of myths out there, and lots of scary movies like 'Jaws,' " Root said. "We're hoping to help people understand more about what sharks are really like."

And what about the guy who actually got up close and personal with the majestic predators?

"My hope is that regular people will be able to look at these programs from my point of view -- as someone who's not an expert, but genuinely curious -- and really enjoy them," Rowe said.

"It's really amazing to be that close to sharks and walk away from it and be OK. And now I can cross this job off my list."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|