Common Man Careers on Reality Shows: Trumping the Rich and Repugnant

At the time of this writing, there seems to be as much divide on reality shows as there is in politics and seemingly everything else. That’s a common corollary of everything in the 21st century after it’s had time to settle in everyone’s minds. American reality shows as we know them, after all, have officially been around in plentiful supplies for more than a decade. And, as with all entertainment genres in the 21st century, the reality show concept has degraded to the morass of following people we shouldn’t care about.

Nevertheless, those same people have become so forcefully engrained into pop culture, many accept them as essential parts of daily pop culture conversation.

But despite that and the mention of wide dichotomies of opinion in America, the divide on reality shows is a blessing to avoid a dangerous tidal wave of status quo.

On social networks, you’ll see an even divide of those who talk about reality shows as if they’ve assimilated them, and others who decry them on a daily basis. Then you have a few commenting moderates who accept some of them (e.g. “American Idol” and the ubiquitous dance genre), though disown the shows that continually celebrate the most repugnant in our society.

If you’re having haunting dreams of nobodies from New Jersey painting themselves orange or endemic housewives who firmly place the ‘b’ in the word ‘witch’, then you’re on the dissenter side.

While it may seem that these myriad categories and continual bachelors and bachelorettes now dominate reality shows, one particular show looks to have changed the genre’s future. When “Pawn Stars” started on History Channel in 2009, the reality show scene changed from spoiled, bickering millionaires to very down-to-earth, bickering working stiffs.

Plus, add the most marked contrast: Those working stiffs actually know something. And even though they deal (stiffly) with the process of staged scenes much like all other reality shows do, watching could potentially raise your I.Q. a few points at a time.

We can’t pretend, though, that the “Pawn Stars” cast are real working stiffs several years after their show went into the stratosphere and made them likely millionaires. But the show still gives an impression of the working class side of the American life that people forget is infinitely more interesting than a Kardashian shopping in Beverly Hills. When it took the History Channel to places most of us never thought a channel with such a title could go today, the search for more common man careers was inevitable.

The reality show genre, though, usually goes through the copycat phase before finding something all new. We’ve had to endure all the “Pawn Stars” branch-offs such as “Hardcore Pawn”, “Oddities” and “Hollywood Collector.” Up until recently, it seemed the only common man career available for reality show treatment was either a pawnshop owner or a dealer in collecting.

Yet what about all those odd common man careers you’ve wondered about from an insider’s perspective? Finally, a brilliant producer managed to dig into the life of a vermin exterminator and those who raid storage units.

And the direction from there can only go toward hyper reality.


A&E may no longer be what it looked like 20 years ago when it really had something resembling Arts & Entertainment. Nevertheless, it’s now morphing into the progenitor of the new wave of common man career reality shows. This, of course, excludes Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels” on the same network. The famous KISS rocker may eventually end up in a crowded field of middle class workers with much shorter tongues (assuming).

If Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” was really the father of chronicling those who do careers we wouldn’t consider, the most significant copycat of “Pawn Stars” was A&E’s “The Exterminators.” More recently, that title has been changed to “Billy the Exterminator” as a more personal way to show the daily life of an insect scout. It may be challenging to think of a vermin exterminator from a company called Vexcon becoming a reality show star, yet the show thrives in its fourth season as of this writing.

The same applies to “Storage Wars” that started not long after on A&E. You could argue that auction hunters aren’t a true common man career. On the other hand, the cast members of “Storage Wars” were from mostly humble backgrounds before entering the occasionally cutthroat world of their industry. It’s a bit of a hint at the type of alternative career someone would take if suffering in America’s economic downturn.

This is where the common man reality show may end up going once reality shows decide to finally go closer to real reality. You can expect that, within two years of this article, you’ll be seeing reality shows about garbage men, small bookstore owners, I.T. professionals, grocery store managers and just about every other middle class career you can name. By then, the seemingly endless fascination with America’s wealthy, orange and apoplectic will be shoved to the fringes. Likely, those particular common people are equally as apoplectic when things go wrong, yet with normal skin shade and minimal bank accounts.

Perhaps the eventual winning formula to the common man show will be where many middle class and below are truly ending up: In the unemployment line. Reality show producers astute to trends should get in close to follow stories of those chronically looking for employment.

Yes, you can count on it that a concept like this is already being pitched to a network.

If the show has to have competition behind it, then let these people line up in “American Idol” audition fashion to prove their career skills. The only difference is, by the end, they’ll get a normal job of their dreams and not the nightmare of becoming the majority of “Idol” singers who end up struggling two years after winning or competing.

It’ll be the only time the reality show will live up to its own name and not for the sake of escaping into worlds we also don’t really want.

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