Mike Rowe Shares The Story Of How Dirty Jobs Started - Exclusive

Ever since "Dirty Jobs" hit television screens in 2005, it's opened up our eyes to occupations we never knew existed. It's even changed the way people think about these messy industries altogether. "But the truth for me is the show is very, very personal," host Mike Rowe explained during an exclusive interview with The List. "It started as a tribute to my granddad."

Surprisingly, Rowe had never aspired to work in the entertainment industry. He wanted to grow up to be just like his grandfather, who could fix just about anything. "He could build a house without a blueprint," Rowe told us. "He was ingenious." However, when Rowe found that he didn't possess the same set of skills, his grandfather encouraged him to pursue another industry completely — and that's when Rowe discovered he was pretty successful in show business. Rowe booked jobs as a narrator and even ended up on QVC for a while. However, his career quickly changed course after he received an unexpected call from his mother, and that's when "Dirty Jobs" was born.

Dirty Jobs was inspired by a special report that Mike Rowe did

While Mike Rowe was busy working as a reporter in San Francisco, he received a phone call that was the very start of him dreaming up the concept of "Dirty Jobs." "That show happened because my granddad turned 90," Rowe explained to The List. "And my mother called me and said, 'Michael, wouldn't it be great if before he died, your grandfather could turn on the TV and see you doing something that looked like work?'" The conversation struck a chord with the TV star, and the very next day, he headed down to the local sewer to do a report on a sewer inspector. That special report snowballed into something much more, and before Rowe knew it, "Dirty Jobs" was set to premiere on the Discovery Channel. 

The successful series made people take notice of the importance of the messy occupations around them. Yet, maybe more importantly, it had Rowe recognizing why he wanted to do this in the first place. "As I started to do the show, what I realized was, on a personal level, that I had become disconnected personally from a lot of things I had grown up with," he said. "A lot of things I took for granted, a lot of things I'd learned from my Pop: where my food came from, where my energy came from, how so many industries connect us all. Dirty industries." And fans everywhere were inspired by it, too.

The reboot was something Mike Rowe never expected

When "Dirty Jobs" came to an end after 8 Seasons, Mike Rowe wasn't interested in shooting anymore episodes. "To be honest, I swore I'd never do another one after 2012," he admitted to The List. After the hundreds of episodes that had aired over the years, "I had made my point," Rowe explained.

It was the COVID-19 pandemic that began bringing back old memories of "Dirty Jobs" episodes. "It just seemed like everywhere I turned, there was reference to essential workers. 'Dirty Jobs' was the granddaddy of essential working shows," Rowe said, and that's when he realized that 8 Seasons was still only the beginning of the iconic television series. 

"Being where I am today, with my foundation and with the headlines being what they are, I just think it would be a missed opportunity not to wade in again," Rowe told us. After all, while many people have just been introduced to the term "essential workers" since the pandemic started, these hardworking men and women have always been there all along — and they always will be.

Brand new episodes of "Dirty Jobs" air Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST/PST on Discovery Channel.