Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline Hollywood‘s TCA coverage.
At first at Monday’s TCA, the theme seemed to be high hopes for traditional comedies aimed at mainstream, heartland Americans: TV Land’s tribute to the mores of the Midwest, Hot in Cleveland and the network’s new Retired at 35, as well as the CMT’s first scripted series Working Class, whose title speaks for itself. Later in the morning, another series was introduced that appears to be lionizing the true-blue American hero: Spike TV’s documentary-reality series Coal, from producer Thom Beers, about the lives of Appalachian coal miners. Coming on the heels of the national story of the trapped Chilean miners who became international heroes, Spike TV executives said they expect the show to tap into an “older and broader” male audience than Spike’s previous target demographic of 18-34. The show premieres on March 30.
Miners are hot – but, in a world of recycling and electric cars, coal is not. Producer Beers defended the show’s intimate relationship with fossil fuels, pointing out that half of the country’s power is still coal-based and praising mining as a public service. Two miners who will be part of the series, Mike Crowder, a part-owner of Cobalt Mine in Westchester, VA, and foreman Jerry “Wild Man” Edwards were also on hand at TCA to defend their profession. Crowder said he agreed to use his mine as the show’s setting because “I think most people in the coal industry have a passion for getting the truth about coal out to the public. Coal provides 50% of the electrical power in the country…that’s a story that’s not really been told. This is a part of Appalachia — if we lived in the ocean, we’d fish, if we lived in Hollywood, we’d probably have something to do with this stuff, but we’re Appalachian folks, and that’s where the coal is.” The miner, he added, “does a great deed for America… It is an American hero job; I’m proud to be a part of this.
The wiry and outspoken Edwards said the miners’ first concern was that the producers were going to “make them look stupid.” “Most people think coal miners are ignorant, we have to work the mines because we don’t know what we’re doing. Most coal miners are very educated,” he said. He explained that running a mine is complicated, and dangerous. Edwards added that the real motivation for most miners to undertake such work is to support their families. “If you want for your kids to grow up poor and not have nothing, you can get you a job working at Wal-Mart,” Edwards said. “If you want your kids to have nice clothes, drive a new car like you do, then you work the coal mines.”
In another session – and on a lighter note – Comedy Central introduced its new Onion Sportsdome, collaboration with The Onion publication to create a sports spoof that will be beyond irreverent and should also appeal to a heartland audience — that is, sports fans. Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s head of original programming, said the show would deal with “major sports, minor sports, as well as sports we make up. The show will seduce you with the conventions of modern sports coverage, like sexy graphics, overblown sound effects, insights from former coaches, players and analysts and insight from pretend former coaches, players and analysts. And lots of theme music heavy on bell tones and driven by relentless guitar riffs.”
The star of another Comedy Central series, Tosh.0‘s Daniel Tosh, addressed the racy jokes on his hit show. “I’m not a misogynistic and racist person, but I do find those jokes funny, so I say them,” he said.