Mark Burnett is the creator of "Survivor," "The Restaurant" and "The Apprentice." Mark was asked how he picked the show contestants. He replied that he just puts high voltage people in the same room and sparks are sure to fly.
Burnett would have a field day with plumbers. Put a few plumbers in a room and ask them, "What's the best ballcock on the market?" Forget sparks; enjoy the fireworks. The ensuing argument would make the "Survivor" finale look like a cotillion.
What if we had plumbing versions of all your favorite reality TV shows? Hmm ...
The MoleOur plumbing version of "The Mole" involves a harried plumbing business owner with an undetected heart condition - and an undetected union plumber. Imagine the excitement in episode three as Mr. Owner staggers outside to catch his breath and discovers "the dumpster meeting." Laugh out loud as management and union reps face off on overtime pay policy.
Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire?How many naive young girls have been wooed into marrying plumbers believing that all plumbers are millionaires? Tsk tsk. In "Who Wants to Marry a Plumber?" you can watch the drama develop as we introduce 25 handsome plumbers to a gold-digging bachelorette. We'll expose each bachelor's net worth on prime-time television until the one true millionaire remains. Warning! Plot Spoiler: Keep your eye on the number-crunching, flat-rater sporting the full healthcare package.
Fear FactorOur "Plumbing Fear Factor" makes that NBC version look like Sissy Factor. Come on, eating cockroaches? Compare that to replacing a long neglected sewage ejection pump. How about fishing a dead mouse out of a kitchen drain? That's looking fear in the eye, Amigo.
Sure, on NBC's "Fear Factor," you will see pretty boys and girls leap from a helicopter and attempt to land, feet first, in a motorcycle side car traveling at 85 mph. How about watching a 300-pound plumber shimmy into a 6-inch crawl space and replace an old kitchen drain line? Now, that's impressive!
I'd like to see that "Fear Factor" host stand a foot deep in raw sewage and "trash talk." Or challenge him to walk across the basement where a litter of puppies has been hiding for a few months. It would never happen. Yet plumbers face that kind of fear on a regular basis.
The Amazing RaceI understand this reality show follows couples as they move from one part of the world to another. Interesting. But it pales in contrast to the day-to-day amazing feats of plumbers in trucks on their way to service calls.
Once I got a call from an angry school crossing guard, letting me know our truck was speeding through the 20-mph zone. "Oh my," I responded. "Are you sure it's our truck?" (The one with flames on the fenders and our company phone numbers in metallic reflective 2-foot-tall decals and my husband's name on the side panels?)
When I radioed the plumber he replied, "But you told me to hurry!" What an adventure!
The season finale of the plumber-version of "The Amazing Race" involves a late-for-the-links plumber, cross town traffic and a stowaway housecat.
The Last Plumber StandingIn this reality show, we submit 20 stalwart plumbers to a seemingly endless barrage of plumber jokes. One by one, our contestants crumble as they hear the words "butt crack" for the thousandth time. On the 27th delivery of the punch line, "I used to make only $30 an hour, too, when I used to be a doctor," the rest of the field surrenders, leaving our Last Plumber Standing. The winner gets a seltzer bottle and a whoopee cushion - tools for revenge.
Let's Make a DealThis is an old school reality show. Remember when Monty Hall would ask audience members to pick a door? We would wring our hands with anticipation as the first selected door rose - and a nanny goat was revealed. Oh, no! Or, joy of joys, the next door picked opened to a new sofa and loveseat set.
Service plumbers play "Let's Make a Deal" all day long. The brave souls march up the front door and knock. Then wait - and pray. Sometimes he or she will get Mrs. Lucy Goosey, a wobbling woman who perches way too close and smells like Jack Daniels. Or, our lucky plumber may meet Mr. Road and Track Magazine owner, whose home car museum displays vintage racecars, dozens of pristine BMW convertibles and a late model Ducati.
Our plumber contestant might hear the magic words, "I want it nice. Only the best is good enough for me. What do you recommend?" Or, be challenged with the stress-producing, "My son warned me that you would try to rip me off." You never know what will happen on "Let's Make a Deal."
The ApprenticeNo lemonade sales for the plumber's apprentices. Our show chronicles two teams - The Female Adaptors and The Male Adaptors - as they face off in tests of skill and smarts. Balance on the edge of your chair during the "Solder Showdown." The first team to sweat a no-leak joint wins. Extra points awarded if the team doesn't start the house on fire.
Join us for subsequent episodes and discover who falls for the "di-hydrogen oxide" fake-out. It's a nail-biter when the apprentices take their journeyman exams - and wait months for the results.
Ultimately, all but one apprentice will be fired. The hired apprentice will manage the plumbing and piping installations of Donald Trump's 90-story hotel/phallic symbol on the beautiful Chicago River.
The Next Action HeroI haven't seen this show yet. Apparently, wanna-be stunt men and women vie for the leading role in a big action movie. Again, the "Plumbing Action Hero" concept would surpass the TV version.
One of the great things about plumbing is that it is essentially good. The main goal is to keep the clean, drinkable water separate from the wastewater. As a result, people aren't likely to die of waterborne diseases. That's downright amazing when you think about it. It's huge. And plumbers make sure that it works, every day, on demand, in big cities and small towns all across the planet.
And, it's these daily victories that make plumbers action heroes. I love riding along with plumbers because I get to watch them in action. It's cool when the plumber clears the drain lines so the stay-at-home mom can get back to kid management, laundry and food production. She may even fit in a long, hot bath all for herself. Thanks, Plumber Action Hero!
It's fun to see a customer connect with his or her plumber. Sometimes the relationship starts out a bit suspect. It's risky knocking on a stranger's door (see "Let's Make a Deal") and it's risky opening your door to a stranger.
Once upon a time, I was riding along with Ed the Plumber on a service call. (I've forgotten his name, but it may be Ed.) Our customer, Mr. Fernwicky, answered the door. He explained that his water heater was leaking. He showed us to the basement, taking each step slowly, and leaning heavily on the stair rail. Ed patiently followed him, like spring follows winter.
All the while, Ed asked questions and listened to the long, drawn out answers. I learned that Mr. Fernwicky was recovering from a stroke. He was frustrated at not being able to speak or move with the grace and ease of his younger, pre-stroke self. Ed shared a story about his dad, also a plumber, and a stroke survivor. He got Mr. Fernwicky chuckling with a story about his dad racing a Rascal scooter around the supermarket. (Note to self: Watch out for seniors on scooters!)
It was a fun afternoon. As the old water heater drained, Ed and Mr. Fernwicky chatted up a storm. They had lots in common, including a love of sailing. At one point, Mr. Fernwicky announced, "I've got something I want you to see." It looked painful, watching him walk up another flight of stairs. He returned with a framed photograph, clutched in his strong hand. I looked from his frail, pale face to the robust young man in the photo. It was he about 30 years earlier, aboard a gleaming white sailboat, framed by a robin egg blue sky.
In the photo, he was tan and laughing and hoisting a fish the size of George Foreman. He and Ed smiled at each other and I relished the moment. He wanted his newfound friend, Ed the Plumber, to know whom he really was, to not be fooled by his stroke-damaged body. Ed fixed more than plumbing on that call.
"The Next Action Hero" is starring in a plumbing truck near you.
Rohr at ISH North America
Ellen Rohr is a scheduled speaker at this year's ISH North America trade show held Oct. 14-16 in Boston. She will present “Beyond Flat Rate - A Revolutionary Approach To Pricing” Friday, Oct. 15 at 9:45 a.m. and repeat the session Saturday, Oct. 16 at 9 a.m. To register for the show, visit www.ish-na.com.