With gas topping $4 a gallon, digging out more of the sticky stuff certainly ought to be on everybody’s minds. Enter “Black Gold,” the latest “manly men and the dirty jobs they do” series from the producers of “Deadliest Catch.” Slickly produced, the show benefits from a colorful assortment of West Texas characters who work hard, drink hard and cuss so much that the level of bleeping approximates what would happen if “The Sopranos” aired on Nickelodeon. It’s undeniably entertaining, if not as suspenseful as the posse of editors seek to render it.
Sometimes the reality TV gods smile on you, and the producers clearly benefit from the crews they’ve chosen to represent this high-stakes pursuit on three competing drilling rigs, all working to strike oil by powering straight down two miles into the Earth. Think of it as “There Will Be Blood: The Series,” and insert your own “I drink your milkshake” joke here.
It’s tough, grueling work, and when they’re not hauling and sinking massive steel pipes, the guys play hard — so much so that one of them gets tossed for a drinking binge. In the second episode, a group of them get liquored up and go out shooting guns, which future historians may use to help explain how we wound up with the Bush presidency.
Over and over, drillers like the crusty Gerald (who holds up a stub that was once his thumb) stress that people will die if they’re not careful, which makes the slacking off and fairly frequent screw-ups by “worms,” or inexperienced roughnecks, seem more dramatic. The program also has a vaguely educational component, employing animation to demonstrate the nuts and bolts of the drilling process, while introducing the bosses who are betting thousands daily that their operations will yield big paydays.
Various channels have tapped into this odd-jobs genre (History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers” among them), and the solid performance of those shows among men suggests the network formerly known as Court TV should strike paydirt as well with what them hillbillies once called “Texas tea.” Besides, if any program should have license to be a trifle crude, it should be one surrounding the search for crude.