America's Toughest Jobs

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
America's Toughest Jobs TV Poster Image
Hardworking reality contest has real-life appeal.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Some stereotyping of contestants' abilities based on gender ("This is not a woman's world" from a crab boat pro, for instance), but overall, the female contestants are able to hold their own with their male counterparts. The professionals often mock the participants' efforts and seem to enjoy their own superiority. Some trash-talking and controversy between contestants.


Video footage of crashes, capsizes, and collisions for dramatic effect. Lots of looming danger -- a deckhand is nearly tossed over the ship's side, a logging accident sends a contestant tumbling, a truck races almost out of control, etc.


Frequent use of expletives like "ass" and "bitch." "S--t" and "f--k" are bleeped.


Show sponsor Dodge Ram 1500 receives mention in each episode.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few background scenes of smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality competition puts novice participants into jobs that require a lot of skill (bridge work, mountain rescue, and logging, for example), so there's always a dramatized sense of possible disaster. In fact, actual injuries are rare, but the contestants are pushed to their physical and emotional limits and sometimes complain of woes like dehydration and exhaustion. There's a fair amount of strong language ("f--k" and "s--t" are bleeped, "ass" and "bitch" aren't) and plenty of heated verbal exchanges between contestants and the veteran crews. But mature viewers will enjoy the fact that the show challenges the players to learn real-life skills and spotlights laborious jobs that don't often get recognition.

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What's the story?

In AMERICA'S TOUGHEST JOBS, 13 contestants try their hands at some of the most physically and mentally grueling occupations in the world, including oil rigging, logging, trucking, and mountain rescue. Each week the participants face a challenge in a new field, with the seasoned veterans who supervise their work eliminating the contestant whose performance they deem the worst. The eventual winner nets a cash prize equaling the combined salaries of all the jobs -- and, of course, the opportunity to greatly diversify his or her resume.

Is it any good?

At first glance, this latest reality series seems like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of gritty shows like Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers. But, in fact, America's Toughest Jobs offers viewers a more substantial package than many other TV competitions do. In addition to testing contestants' endurance and will to succeed, these challenges offer the competitors hands-on experience in real-life skills like running a chainsaw, scaling a mountain, and driving an 18-wheeler. The focus here isn't on surviving on roasted bugs or catching the eye of a hunky star; it's about facing a challenge that's outside your comfort zone and adapting your talents to meet a job's requirements.

Even better, the show shines the spotlight on occupations whose employees rarely receive accolades. In a society that covets corner offices and big salaries, viewers are sure to develop a new sense of appreciation for what these hardworking men and women do day in and day out. And, speaking of women, don't be too quick to count them out of the running just because of the physicality of these jobs; the show's female contestants are hardly at a disadvantage when their determination is a factor. That said, tensions do often run high and can lead to heated verbal exchanges and some strong language ("ass" and "bitch" are popular; "f--k" is used a lot, too, but is bleeped).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the media portrays certain occupations in relation to others. Does this show give a positive or negative impression of the professionals in the different fields? Do you think it offers an accurate representation of the real-life work these people do? Do the contestants seem respectful of the veterans' skills? Have you ever pre-judged a job or task as easier than it turned out to be? Does this show change how you look at the jobs people do? Why do you think so many TV series center on the medical, legal, and law enforcement fields? Are dramas like ER and Law & Order more or less entertaining than reality series like Lobster Wars? Why?

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