Although reality television may seem like a roiling mess of a million shows, the entire genre divides neatly into two categories. The first type is the reality of idleness, which includes series like The Real World, Jersey Shore, and the Real Housewives franchise. Some of these realistas have jobs—most shows feature a group enterprise or individual entrepreneurs sweating to convert TV exposure into bankable dough—but the work is mere fodder for interpersonal conflict. We watch to see strangers being rude to one another. They remind us that awesome real estate and banging bods do not bring happiness.
At the other end of the spectrum is the reality of the workplace. This second group includes competitions like Project Runway and The Apprentice—they’re season-long job interviews, after all. There are also the more literal workplace dramas, like The Millionaire Matchmaker and Deadliest Catch. These we watch for reassurance; they remind us that even the coolest-sounding jobs are just as frustrating and stressful as our own.
The Discovery Channel’s motorcycle-and-firearm-filled reality lineup constitutes solid proof of that proposition. Apart from their titular patriotism, American Chopper (life at a family motorcycle business), American Guns (life at a family gun business), and American Loggers (life at a family tree-harvesting business) all proffer the exact same message: “Outlaws—they’re just like us!”
The latest additions to Discovery’s roster of renegade workplaces deliver the same takeaway. Weed Wars, which debuts Thursday at 10 p.m. ET, and Moonshiners, which launches next Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 10 p.m. ET, both focus on strange people working hard in dubious professions. Weed Wars tells the story of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif., the world’s largest medical cannabis dispensary, which boasts an executive named Dave Wedding Dress. Moonshiners follows a Virginian named Tim, who, with the help of his good friend Tickle, works to preserve the family tradition of brewing illegal hooch.
Dave Wedding Dress, Tickle, and their cohort are just like your co-workers, only more distinctively attired. Steve DeAngelo, Harborside’s founder and executive director, knows the importance of establishing a signature look, and his standard attire could be described as Bolivian Indian (long braids and a hat) meets English gentleman (regimental tie and windowpane-checked vest). Wedding Dress—who in the first episode, at least, is mostly used to represent the species oddballis canabidense—likes to set off his Santa beard with a knee-length tie-dye jumper. And down in moonshine country, Tim maintains a bib-overalls and no-shirt ensemble and speaks in a subtitles-requiring drawl.
But don’t let their wardrobes fool you—these people run into the same troubles you do. The first episode of Weed Wars centers on an argument over taxes. The city of Oakland is demanding that a new 5 percent cannabis levy must be paid in advance; the pot people say the council promised the bill would be due retroactively. Since Harborside takes in more than $21 million in sales each year, we’re talking about a significant chunk of change. Even so, this is the least promising plot point since The Phantom Menace tried to get us worked up about the taxation of trade routes.