Having your own website is great. Not just because it gives me a great excuse to not write my next book because I’m writing for this but because I have a small platform to highlight some wonderful programs that interest me and I want to spread the joy.
This show is one that I’ve come across only recently. Very recently. In that last week, but this program was shown on Bravo when that was a channel in the UK and aired in the mid-late 2000’s and the show’s host, Ashley Hames, has an affiliation with another presenter that I’m fond of, Grub Smith from ‘Travel Sick’. Don’t know it? Nor does anyone else but it’s amazing. You see, both Grub Smith and Ashley Hames have both presented the same show, ‘Sin Cities’ which aired just before ‘Travel Sick’ in the early 2000’s. Grub Smith hosted the first series and Mr Hames continued hosting for the following three series.
I haven’t watched it but apparently, it’s about sex and I wouldn’t know anything about that… Shut up. Moving on.
The premise of the show is this; lifelong ‘waster’, Ashley Hames embarks on a mission to find the true essence of being a man and so enters himself into various dangerous professions to uncover the necessary qualities. Apparently, we’re not talking about the cliched ‘rights of passage’ that all men go through which mostly consist of getting drunk, having sex with a lady and getting the shit kicked out you although Mr Hames goes through all of these in the show at least once.
According to the opening narration which is spoken by a woman who sounds like she has utter contempt for the show’s host, Ashley has never had a job at the age of 35 which he was at the time. Well that’s not strictly true now, is it? Do those three years on ‘Sin Cities’ not count? I take it that they mean a ‘proper job’ like working in Tesco’s or something. They mean the ‘9 to 5’, the ‘daily grind’ as it’s called. But being a host on TV is a proper job. Anything you get paid for is a job otherwise it’s just a hobby.
You see, writing these words on this page in front of you is a hobby because I don’t get paid. If I were to turn on the ‘monetization’ for this site… never mind.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, ‘Man’s Work’. I really like it and just like with ‘Travel Sick’, the reason why I like it is because of the host. Let me put this into some context. When I said ‘dangerous professions’ a few paragraphs ago, I was understating ever so slightly. What I mean is, ‘fucking dangerous professions’. I’m talking ‘Mountain Rescue’ in Montana, I’m talking the Columbian Police, I’m talking the Jamaican Coast Guard. All of these professions and the ones featured in the rest of the series are dangerous and in some cases, people have died in the line of duty.
These professions are dangerous but also physically demanding and it would not be out of the ordinary for an employer of any one of these professions to question the appearance and therefore the physical dexterity of a man who’s easily 6 foot tall and as scrawny as the scrawniest thing that had ever evolved. With a lack of any visual aid, picture a better-looking Steven Merchant and you’re in the general area. This might sound harsh but believe me, I’m about to shower him with praise.
Shows like this are not new. My American readers might remember ‘The Simple Life’ with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as they try and do a day’s work. For my fellow UK residents, the only example I can think of is ‘Princess Nikki’ which starred Nikki Grahame as she too tried to find a line of work that was right for her.
Comparing ‘Man’s Work’ to these shows feels harsh as it’s drastically different in the sense that Ashley Hames comes across as quite a nice bloke. He’s genuinely likeable and I found myself rooting for him and wanting him to do well by the end of each episode.
A shining example would be the first episode that I watched which saw Mr Hames attempting to become an Alaskan Crab Fisherman for five days. This wasn’t just a job that he could walk away from if he didn’t like it, he was stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic. This job can be deadly to anyone not paying attention and ‘dicking around’ is not encouraged. Despite the rigorous demands of the job and a merciless environment in both conditions and management, Ashley’s prepared to get stuck in but it’s not long before the inevitable happens and he’s struck down with seasickness. We’ve all been there. Maybe not in the middle of the Atlantic specifically but in the sense of being so ill that you don’t want to do anything. He gets to the point both mentally and physically where he wants to quit and the Captain is less than sympathetic but with some support from the rest of the crew, Ashley overcomes his sickness and helps the crew achieve their target amount of crab. As he leaves, the crew have some nice words to say about him as does the Captain.
I don’t want to spoil too much as I’m going to recommend the shit out of this show because it’s awesome and most of the episodes are entertaining and funny. All but one. The episode I’m talking about is where Ashley becomes a Crime Scene Cleaner in San Francisco.
The way it works is when there is a gruesome crime committed, a murder for example, the police are called in and once they’ve finished and the body has been removed, the crime scene cleaners are brought in.
Suffice it to say that this kind of profession is reserved for a particular kind of person and through the course of the episode, Ashley tries to find out what kind of person that is. This episode wasn’t so much ‘physically demanding’, more ‘psychologically treacherous’.
I don’t want to shit all over what these guys do because it must be hard and horrible but it’s a job that sadly is called upon. And I understand totally that there has to be some kind of disassociation when dealing with the aftermath of a murder and getting emotionally involved is impractical at best. Those guys are there to do a job and I get that. But as I uncovered whilst watching, certain people seemed to have confused disassociation with disrespect. In the meantime, Ashley remains respectful and understandably emotional at the scenes that he witnesses as he contemplates the horror that resulted in the requirement of a crime scene cleaner.
It’s one of the more recognised episodes of the show and whilst I wouldn’t particularly describe it as ‘entertaining’, it is interesting to see the effect the job has had on the employees and the effect that it has on Ashley.
The Crime Scene Cleaners episode might be quite famous but the others are not to be neglected as each holds it’s own TV gold. To give a few examples, in the ‘Stuntman’ episode, you can watch Ashley get set on fire, he spends an episode managing the ‘Slough’ football team, but I think one of my favourites would be the ‘Edmonton Fire Service’ episode, purely for its ending.
Overall, I think the opening narration does Ashley a great disservice. He might not seem to be suitable for what is described as ‘Man’s Work’ and he might act like a bit of a tit at times but in his defence, he does get stuck in to all the jobs that he’s given and I didn’t see him give up in his overall mission which is a great trait for a man.
Usually, Ashley will set himself a goal for an expedition; in the ‘Canadian Heli-logging’ episode for example, he set himself the task of cutting down a huge tree and more often than not, he ends up surprising himself and his co-workers with his capabilities. All the while, these difficult and important professions are not mocked or ridiculed. At the end of the show, an emotional poem is read out which highlights the dangers of some of the jobs and lends great respect to the people who lost their lives.
But 13 episodes is your lot, I’m afraid. But what happened after? Ashley’s TV exposure after ‘Man’s Work’ went much the same way as Grub Smith’s in that he’s not on it. He did one series of 10 episodes called ‘Top Trumps’ with Robert Llewellyn of ‘Red Dwarf’ fame which was about statistics of ‘super machines’ and that was largely it.
In the intervening years, Ashley has put pen to paper, writing two books that I’m aware of. He documented his experiences on ‘Sin Cities’ with the book ‘Sin Cities: Adventures of a Sex Reporter’ which is available on Amazon.
His second book took a more personal turn. It’s called ‘Seven Days to Say I Love You’ and it chronicles the week leading up to the death of his father. I have to say, it is a proper page-turner. I bought it yesterday and I finished it today. It is quite dark and very emotional given the subject matter but it’s bravely written with great care and I do recommend it. It’s available on Amazon and I paid about £4 for the e-book. Support the artist, that’s my motto.
I said I was going to promote ‘Man’s Work’ and thanks to Ashley Hames himself, I’m able to do so. In the spirit of ‘Kenny VS Spenny’, the show is not available of DVD but is available in it’s entirety on Ashley’s YouTube channel, the link for which is here – inglese con Ash
Here’s my final word. Both ‘Travel Sick’ and ‘Man’s Work’ seem to be symbols of a by-gone era. This makes me sound really old but it’s true. As I’ve gotten older, TV’s gotten more boring and filled more with idiots. You know what I mean, idiots who are not likeable at all, just insufferable gobshites. Shows like ‘Kenny VS Spenny’ and ‘Travel Sick’ and indeed ‘Man’s Work’ were nonetheless true brilliance disguised as idiocy and that’s the smartest kind. I’ve heard the expression, ‘It takes a true genius to act like an idiot’ and oh, how true that is.
On the surface, you could dismiss them as ‘late night smut’ but look underneath the surface there’s something very special to be found. As I’m so fond of saying; don’t believe me, watch it for yourself then come back here and agree with me.