Tag Archives: Thom Beers

‘Coal’ Mining Show Put Thom Beers and Co. to the Test

"Coal" Spike TV photo


Thom Beers says it took him three years to find a mining company willing to allow him to come in with his camera team before he was able to start shooting “Coal.”  The latest in the extraordinarily successful producer’s collection of reality shows depicting real-life dangerous jobs (“Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers,” “Black Gold,” etc.), it debuts on Spike tonight.

It’s a doozy.  If you’re disturbed by dark confined places, this is not the show for you.

Thom Beers

“It’s a big scary hole in the ground,” Beers acknowledges.  How did he find a crew willing to go in to shoot the show?  “We start with lobotomies.  No — I’ll tell you what.  This was a particularly tough one, but the guys that do all these programs we make are looking for an adventure, not a paycheck.  These are not guys who are going to whine about meals and travel.  They actually had to do two weeks of training before we started shooting.  You can’t just walk into a mine like this.

“We did kind of a bait and switch on the guys,” he adds.  “At first we were going to do a 64-inch vein of coal, but by the time we made all our deals, it was 34 inches.  That’s 10 weeks on your knees.”

“Coal” showcases a multigenerational assortment of miners and a pair of ex-computer guys who invested their life savings into buying a mine.  Fortunately for Beers, those owners — Mike Crowder and Tom Roberts of West Virginia’s Cobalt Coal — knew his work.  “Our reputation was key to our getting access.  They knew we weren’t there to skewer anyone.  That’s not what we do,” says Beers.

According to him, one of the biggest challenges had nothing to do with physical difficulties: “Getting a West Virginia miner to open his mouth — that’s a very tough job, to get them talking.”  And once they do talk, they’re often hard for non-West Virginia miners to understand.  “We had to rely more heavily on subtitles than we’ve ever done before,” admits Beers.

Kevin Kay

MEANWHILE:  “Coal” marks a new direction for Spike.  “It’s very different for us,” notes Spike TV President Kevin Kay.

Explains the man whose accomplishments include launching “The Ultimate Fighter,” “We have a little bit of a stranglehold on young men, 18 to 34, and we’ve found that young guys are loyal to Spike and want to see Spike succeed.  Older guys, not so much.”  He intends to change those older guys’ minds with “Coal” and other shows that have a broader appeal.  “‘Coal’ is exactly the direction the network wants to be heading,” he says.

Referring to Spike’s raunchiest show, Kay says that much of the impetus toward more diverse programming “came out of focus groups, and hearing from older guys who sometimes felt uncomfortable watching ‘Blue Mountain State’ if their kid was in the room or their wife was in the room.  We were hearing that loud and clear.”

Besides “Coal,” Spike has “Ink Masters” — a reality competition show among tattoo artists — coming up.  “We haven’t seen that before,” points out Kay.  And then there’s “Car Boss,” whose main subject Kay terms “a ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ of car sales….He goes around to all these car dealerships and rejuvenates them.”  Also ahead is a new season of “Auction Hunters,” which already delivers a wider demographic than other Spike shows, including females.  But Spike has no intention of forsaking its manly mandate.

“Spike is for men and the women who love them” says Kay, “and that’s what it should be.  We’re not Oxygen, Bravo or Lifetime.  We’re the opposite of that.”

Reality Show King Thom Beers Adding Miners to His Array of Tough Workingman Shows

Thom Beers Discovery Channel photo

Real guy reality show king Thom Beers has a packed agenda this week – he’s heading north for a meeting with all the sea captains on his wildly popular “Deadliest Catch” show, then onward to confab with the team getting ready for the next season of “Ice Road Truckers.”  And then he’ll be heading south, where, he reports, preparation is underway for what sounds like it could be the next big ticket Beers show, in West Virginia and Kentucky.

“It’s a pilot.  I can’t talk much about it yet,” he says.

Hot environment, or cold?

“Cold,” he laughs.  “We’re actually going into a hole in the ground    We’re going to be down there with the coal miners.  It’s a whole different world.”

Which is how the preternaturally peppy Beers likes it.

“I love getting out there.  Every show is so different – in the surroundings, the characters, the gear you use, and the way you shoot.  They’re a lot more complicated than people think,” reveals the man who has been hailed as reality TV’s only auteur – the man responsible for an array of shows that ranges from “Monster Garage” to “Pitchmen.”

“‘The Colony’ is completely different,” he goes on, referring to the show in which he has 10 people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.  “It’s all shot over the shoulder because we want everyone to discover, as an audience, as the characters are discovering.”   He considers that program, now in its second season, “a real swing for the fences.”  It worked.  “The age, the demographic of that show – 13 per cent is a brand new audience for Discovery Channel.  My 18-to-49-year-olds are bigger than my 25-to-54s,” crows Beers.

Black Gold truTV photo

Right now, the Season 3 launch of truTV’s “Black Gold” show about oil rig roughnecks in Texas is at the forefront of his mind.  The boys will be back Sept. 8, and more trouble is ahead.  Beers seems to get a kick out of the antics of his rowdy crew.

“The biggest challenge in this show is keeping these guys out of jail,” he reports. “This is a much more rough and tumble world.”  And unlike the seamen and truckers on his other shows, “These guys go home at night.  They work, work, work their butts off, go home, get cleaned up and put on their best clothes and then go out to the bars for a few drinks, then a few more drinks.  They’re young.  There’s a lot of camaraderie.  They make two or three times more than anyone else out there.  If you’ll pardon the expression, it’s fightin’ and #$@!-in’”

Beers has had to adjust his filming plans due to unexpected circumstances more than once.  “The two guys I thought were going to be stars at the start of the show got arrested and thrown in jail right at the start of the first season,” he reports.  “You have to be ready to make changes on the fly.”

This year, a woman’s been added t the mix – one who happens to be pretty, blond and in charge.  “She owns the property where they’re drilling.  She’s awesome.  She carries a gun.  She doesn’t take any S@!!.  I’ve got to admit, we found her, and then we decided this would be a good place to drill.”