The Spike network is set to run a show about coal miners, in the mold of Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers — gritty dudes fighting their way through the world’s hardest jobs. This has the potential to expose coal’s seamy underbelly, or to glamorize it beyond repair (at least in the minds of Spike-watching meatheads). According to the New York Times’ Virginia Heffernan, it sort of does neither and both.

Here’s how it shakes out:

  • The show is frank about the human dangers of mining — and Spike has partnered with, which helps the families of 29 coal miners killed in a West Virginia mine disaster last year. That's good.
  • The mining company they’re following is a small and struggling one, which allows the show to sidestep the usual vast wealth gulf between miners and CEOs. Mining work looks a lot more like tough-but-ballsy labor and a lot less like exploitation when the fat cats are skinny. That’s bad.
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  • This particular company may have gone for it because the producers gave them a small buttload of cash as a "location fee." That's … good for the company?
  • It airs on Spike, which tends to aim to be sort of the Maxim of television. The contextual implication is that mining is butch and virile. That’s kinda bad.
  • The focus here is the daily life of miners, which means it’s not about the political or environmental effects of coal. It may or may not be poverty porn — they seem to be trying to make sure it isn’t — but in any event, it’s not political. That’s good or bad depending on your perspective.
  • The frogurt is also cursed.

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