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Plumbing in Pop Culture

Updated on October 31, 2017

Movies, television, video games and other forms of entertainment draw inspiration for a variety of sources. They pull from the world around us and even things that may seem ordinary to others have the potential to become the base for expansive worlds and universes. Believe it or not, even past those well-known Italian brothers, quite a few entertainment pieces have been based around plumbing and plumbers.

Ghost Hunters

In 1990, Jason Hawes, a plumber for Roto-Rooter in Warwick, Rhode Island, founded the Rhode Island Paranormal Society (RIPS). Initially a support group for those who had paranormal experiences, the group expanded over the years . When a longtime co-worker and fellow plumber, Grant Wilson, offered to redesign the website, the two went on to became co-founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS). This group was eventually picked up in 2004 for a SciFi (now Syfy) series called Ghost Hunters. This flagship series made the it one of the top watched channels on cable and lasted for over a decade on the network.

The show followed teams normally comprised of between three to eight members lead by Jason and Grant to investigate both commercial and residential locations that owners and guests said were haunted. Approaching the task with a skeptical approach and a unique perspective as plumbers, they would often attempt to replicate and investigate the claimed experiences. There were several instances where the two were able to find more tangible causes in the air, plumbing or electrical systems and provide potential solutions for the owners.

Pipe Dream

Pipe Mania is a puzzle game developed in 1989 by The Assembly Line, a British video game development company, for the personal computer system Amiga. It was ported to several other platforms as Pipe Dream and generally distributed in the United States by Lucasfilm Games. The Windows version of the game was included in the original Microsoft Entertainment Pack, which also included Freecell, Minesweeper and Teipei.200

Pipe Dream was a puzzle game that progressed through levels of increasing difficulty. In a style similar to Tetris, players are presented with a variety of pipe pieces offered randomly in a queue. They must use these pieces to create a path from the start location that continues at least through a certain amount of pipes but may also be required to end at an open location on the edge of the grid. These pieces can be interchanged with later pieces but as a green "flooz" or "goo" begins moving through the pipes, they become locked. With each round, the time that the flooz starts and the speed at which it moves become faster.

Though the game has persisted on its own as late as 2009 with glossy, modern updates, it has survived beyond that as a mini-game in several blockbuster hits such as Bioshock and Saints Row IV. In these games, they are often used as a hacking mechanic.

Mario Brothers

Often regarded as the most popular plumber in entertainment, Mario originally debuted as "Jumpman" in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong. In this version, he was actually portrayed as a carpenter having to save his girlfriend from his pet ape, Donkey Kong. In 1983, the character was not only given a name but an entire game as well. Mario Bros. featured Mario and his younger brother, Luigi, as Italian-American plumbers who fight the creatures coming from the sewers below New York City.

Since then, there have been over 250 installments of games featuring thirty major characters in the Mario franchise. The Super Mario game series alone has accumulated over three hundred million in sales. Half a dozen TV series, both animated and live action, have spanned nearly a decade between 1983 and 1992. A feature length film was also released in 1993 starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. Like most video game adaptations, however, it was not as successful as other parts of the franchise.

It is worth noting, however, that as of this year, an updated biography from Nintendo states that Mario "...seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago..." When questioned on if this indicated that the character had retired from his profession, the company confirmed that it was correct and canon within the story.


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