EXCLUSIVE: Is it possible that a mousetrap can cure a hangover or a horseshoe can help you find a soulmate? According to Mike Rowe, the answer is yes.
The former “Dirty Jobs” star explores major moments in American history and connects the dots with surprising tales and humor. The 58-year-old not only wants to pay homage to his father, but he also wants the show to promote unity during turbulent times.
Rowe spoke to Fox News about how we can move forward as Americans, what inspired him to launch the series now, as well as his favorite discovery that he made while filming.
Fox News: “Six Degrees with Mike Rowe” aims to highlight how everything is somehow connected. With tensions so high in America right now, how do you think we can move forward from here?
Mike Rowe: Well, look, what’s the famous old quote? Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that. The more unsure the future looks, the more unsettled the present is, I think the more important the past becomes. And so we’re desperate today, I think, to find topics we can all agree on.
“Dirty Jobs” is an easy thing to agree on because we all understand the importance of work. History, I think is an easy thing to agree on as well. And we can argue over the specifics of what happened here or there. People love to do that, but still, it’s fundamentally a thing that we share. And so the basic topic of history, I think is increasingly important at a time like this.
The show interestingly was originally called “The Way I Heard It,” which is the name of my podcast. And I wanted to do that because I really don’t want to tell people, this is the way it was, right, this is the way it happened. I don’t know the way it happened. I wasn’t there, but I have access now to the same information that everybody else does. Thanks to this device, I have access to 99% of all the known information in the world.
As I try and make sense of the present by looking back to the past, I construct the narrative the way I heard it, the way it makes sense to my brain. And that ultimately is what this show is. Everything in it is true, everything in it is accurate but everything in it is also my answer to a question. And those questions are goofy… Well, the fun of unpacking questions like these is to show people that really anything’s possible if you have enough time, enough bourbon and access to the Internet.
Fox News: What inspired you to launch this series now?
Rowe: Well, I think, “Dirty Jobs” was a love letter to my grandfather, who was a skilled tradesman. And that show was a rumination on work. My father was a history teacher in high school and junior high. He always told me the first thing you have to do if you’re going to teach history is find a way to make it interesting to kids who really don’t care.
And the truth is, it’s not so different when you’re growing up. Most people don’t really love history, and I’ve always been a fan. And I always thought if I could find a way to do a show that took a little bit of the pretense out of the whole lecture scenario that so often accompanies history, maybe people would dig it. And so that’s what this is, it’s a history show for people who normally wouldn’t watch a history show.
Fox News: Which was your favorite discovery that you found while making this series and why?
Rowe: I was interested in a scenario during the First World War where the inventor of the Maxim machine gun is discussed. And the Maxim machine gun really changed the topography of that war. A lot of other things did, too, but it was a fearsome weapon. And one of the things that the armies did to try and locate the actual location of these guns was called sound ranging, and they used war tubas to do this.
These giant tubas, 20 feet long, that they would point at the sky to pick up the sound of airplanes. And they would point at the ground to hear the vibrations of artillery and some of these guns. And after the war, this sound ranging was used to explore for oil and it completely changed our direction in terms of a country that needs energy. The way we started exploring for oil as a result of an attempt to locate artillery with a tuba.
Fox News: What’s one moment in American history that you believe we take for granted today?
Rowe: Well, it’s not just the moments we take for granted. It’s the moments we don’t even know about that wind up leading inexorably to things we do know about and things that impact us hugely. I think of Charles Newbold, the guy who invented the iron plow. That changed everything. And there was a long time when all the plows were made of wood, and they broke and you really couldn’t do much in the way of creating a lot of food beyond the food you needed to feed your own family.
Well, the agricultural revolution happened because Charles Newbold decided to make a plow out of iron. And it would have happened earlier, but there was a lot of superstition, people thought the iron in the soil would kill the crops. Weirdly enough, of course, it didn’t. And once the iron plow caught on and the agricultural revolution took off, then companies like John Deere and Caterpillar and so many others began to emerge and evolve. And if you’d follow the etymology all the way back, it really comes down to that moment where a guy who used to make horseshoes decided to use the iron to make a plow.
And then, of course, that plow found its way all over the world. And an outlaw in Australia and a famous shootout named Ned Kelly used the plow to make a suit of armor. And as a result, he survived the shootout. And it was such a crazy thing they made a movie about it, “The Ned Kelly Gang.”
And of course, Ned Kelly was ultimately hanged, but the movie they made was the first…feature-length film that had… It didn’t have sound in it, but it showed people that a movie could be over an hour-long, that transformed Hollywood. And then now you’re in Hollywood all of a sudden. Look, I could talk for two hours about what happens as a result of the iron plow, but then I just give away the first episode.
“Six Degrees with Mike Rowe” is available for streaming on Discovery+.