Gold Rush: TV Review

Gold Rush Discovery TV Still - H 2012

Gold Rush Discovery TV Still - H 2012

The third season of the series continues to prove it is no flash in the pan.

The Discovery series plays up the allure of the mining gamble where hard work doesn't always pay off, and luck has the final say.

Discovery's gold mining series Gold Rush has returned for a third season keeping up with the life and trials of three (now split into four) crews of men in various areas around Alaska's Klondike region, who earn their living (or in many cases, don't) by mining for gold.  The series will be looking to retain its position as the network's top-rated show, and while in many ways it presents itself as any other docu-series following those with strange or tough jobs, there is something to Gold Rush that does give it extra spark.

Even if new viewers are not caught up on the equipment problems, infighting and weather-related issues from past seasons of the show, the three crews are introduced in memorable ways and with clear trajectories to set the stage for a new season of mining. And, we are told in the first episode, this year one of the crews will finally strike it rich.

Most of the cast are likable guys (there is one female crew member, yet to be introduced), but the most instantly impressive of all of the crew bosses is 18-year-old Parker Schnabel, who has taken his grandfather's gold mining hobby and turned it into a business. Though last year he only cleared $56,000 worth of gold (which after expenses ended up amounting to a loss), he is now looking to upgrade and expand some of the original equipment to take on a heavier load. Schnabel is a kind and impressive young man, who in the premiere episode helps out his neighboring miner Dakota Fred, though quickly finds out that favors are not always given so freely in return. He runs his crew with an exceptional maturity, and though in the first episode he has a few moments of real frustration, anger and a small but crucial injury, he mostly keeps an even keel and is the real underdog of the show.

The aforementioned Dakota Fred as well as Todd Hoffman and Dave Turin (who split up to form two crews in this new season) are also profiled in their quest for gold. Each of the crews have a goal in mind for how much gold they are hoping to find, and none are more ambitious than Todd and Dave, who believe they can get over a million dollars of it this year (equalling around 1,000 ounces of gold).  

Though some conversations are clearly reconstructed for the cameras, there is a feeling in Gold Rush that the stakes are quite real, with actual problems shown with real emotions (which should be standard in such series but sadly isn't). There's the allure of the gamble of mining, too, because hard work doesn't necessarily equal reward. Though these men are calculating their odds to the best of their ability, there's also the possibility of striking it rich with unexpected pay dirt, which is much less likely than going home with almost nothing.

With few certainties, things are kept tense and interesting. There is expensive heavy machinery and monster trucks to help the crews break through ice and stir up tracks during the short season they are able to work without frost, and watching those machines work is just flat-out fun. The action is enhanced by an emotive soundtrack as well as some strategically-placed cameras on the equipment itself. The pace swirls swiftly, but a narrator seamlessly guides us through what's happening on screen: how these men get the work done is part of the fascination and draw of the show, and the unexpected educational aspect gives it a little more depth than just waiting for someone to get lucky.

Discovery has doubled down on their gold-based series by introducing the new similarly-themed Jungle Gold, which will air after Gold Rush's premiere. It's not a bad bet for the network to make -- there is something innately captivating about the quest for gold, and Discovery has gotten the alchemy right in turning their relationship with it into profitably engaging entertainment.