Spike TV mines W.Va. ‘Coal’ beginning Wednesday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When it comes to the national media, West Virginia, more often than not, is not portrayed in the best light. So when new endeavors relating to the state are announced, we approach them with trepidation.

That was my feeling last year when I heard about a coal mining reality show filming in McDowell County. My mind immediately conjured up the many potential embarrassments this could bring.

That show, Spike TV’s “Coal,” premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday. The 10 hourlong episodes follow the miners and operators of Cobalt Coal in Big Sandy, near Welch.

Earlier this week, I was nervous as I popped my rough-cut press copy of the premiere episode into the DVD player, fearing the worst. But while it’s not likely to change outsiders’ opinions of us Mountaineers, “Coal” isn’t terribly embarrassing – at least not yet.

Yes, some of the men have elements of the stereotypical hick, and I did cringe at some of their bad grammar and unintelligible speech. However, I also cringed at the occasionally overdramatic voiceover narration.

There are frequent subtitles to help with the dialogue, but they don’t completely alleviate the problem. Whether it was the accents, the background noise or a combination of the two, there were still plenty of times without subtitles when I couldn’t understand what was being said.

Also, it was sometimes difficult to catch the dialogue because I was busy just trying to keep up with everything being thrown at me. For much of the premiere, you are inundated with information about mining, mines and mine equipment. There’s also a barrage of names and faces as people are introduced.

The show is from the creators of “Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers” and “Ax Men,” though, so they know what they’re doing. Once they get this expository stuff out of the way, the show gets progressively more engrossing as they get to the good stuff that they hope will keep viewers coming back.

A small roof collapse in the mine, equipment problems, conflict with the night shift and financial pressures are all part of the first episode. It ends with an injured miner being loaded into an ambulance.

Because it’s on cable, “Coal” probably won’t be as high-profile outside West Virginia as last year’s “Food Revolution” with Jamie Oliver, but it will show everyone we’re more than just fat. We’re also strong, hard working, dedicated and family oriented. I can think of worse ways to be portrayed.



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