If you have to come home to Missouri from Australia to run the family business, you could do worse than managing the menagerie that is Midway Travel Plaza in Columbia, Mo.
Especially if you end up in a cheerful reality-TV show.
That's my impression after the first two half-hour episodes of Truck Stop, Missouri, from Leftfield Pictures(Pawn Stars, American Restoration). They air back to back Wednesday night, 10-11 p.m. ET/PT, on Travel Channel.
Midway, on I-70 halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, is managed by Joe Bechtold, the guy who came back from Australia with his wife, Megan, and his young family to preserve his dad's legacy, we are told.
He is a good-humored Midwesterner, the kind who'll "punish" an assistant manager who spends an hour getting his car washed by young cheerleaders (no entendre intended) by putting him into a rowboat to fix the aerator in the sewage lagoon. Who smiles after getting put on the ground by a runaway heifer he was trying to hold with a rope. And who doesn't get mad when his wife pokes fun at a billboard that has a silhouette of him on top.
He's an entrepreneur always looking for a way to bring traffic into his little village with its no-profit-margin gas pumps and a dozen businesses, including a tattoo parlor where a granny has been coming in to get a new tattoo every birthday since her 50th. "I'll do anything to make money," he says, including, in a later episode, staging a Willie Nelson concert.
The humor is kind of cornball, like the joke played on "Paul," the old guy in the straw hat who comes in trying to sell an "antique" fishing pole (it involves the lagoon), or the Bechtold anecdotes cited above. Or Bechtold's solution to getting another local to stop tying his horses up to a gas line.
In a nod to Adam Richman, whose Man V. Food Nation provides the lead-in Wednesday night, Midway's restaurant dreams up a food challenge. Anyone who can eat 70 ounces of gravy atop seven buttered biscuits within an hour can have that $19.95 dish for free. An attempt occurs in episode 2, the same one that has the local cheerleaders washing cars.
My impression was it all seemed a bit stagey, and apparently some of the funny scenes had to be recreated, according to Vox Magazine. But that probably happens a lot on reality shows, right? And you will learn a lot about running a truck stop, including how they price the gasoline.
As summer TV destinations go, you can do worse than pulling into Truck Stop, Missouri.