The TV Show That Celebrates the American Dream

As a 'Gold Rush' cast member tells LifeZette, 'It is not just about gold for me'

There’s a wealth of both entertainment and education to be had from watching Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush.” The hit reality show, which follows different work crews as they search for gold and strip it from the earth, has been a consistent ratings hit since its 2010 premiere. Having just wrapped up its seventh season, the show is as popular as ever — and with good reason.

The show’s title deliberately evokes the popular image of men sprinting into the American West with pans and pickaxes, seeking fortune and risking life and limb to do it. It might not sound like the best formula for a television hit — but “Gold Rush” is a consistent ratings winner, often drawing in more of the coveted 18-49 demographic than some broadcast shows.

“Gold Rush” follows miners as they search for the next bonanza in places including Alaska, Canada, Oregon, and even Guyana. While the tools of yesteryear’s prospector are still in play, so are more modern pieces of equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, and electric water pumps. The past is alive in this business, even as the future has improved upon it.

Todd Hoffman, a successful miner and family man from Oregon with a delightfully big goatee, is one of the show’s most popular figures. He told LifeZette that having the spotlight on him, his family, and business has been life-changing.

“Our fans love to see us out working,” Hoffman said. “They like to feel like the American dream is still possible and watch the show as a family.”

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It’s a capitalist enterprise in unusually pure form, as these prospectors roll the dice on their expeditions. In some cases, an underwhelming result doesn’t just threaten a lean year, but financial ruin. When big money and huge man hours yield little more than a pan of dirt, there’s drama in watching men dig. Tempers flare, setbacks arise, and triumphs emerge in ways as compelling as any scripted drama.

It’s easy to see why so many casinos invoke gold in their names; the stakes in this show are huge, but intimate as we see these few individuals making a go at literally striking it rich. It’s brutally hard work done by people who have to be tough and savvy in order to succeed.

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The series has performed so well it has even inspired a spinoff. “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail” is a three-part series that follows “Gold Rush” star Parker Schnabel as he treks on foot from his Alaska home to the Klondike goldfields. He’s a relatable yet remarkable TV figure, a young man running a complex gold operation at an age when many of his peers aren’t even out of their campus safe spaces.

Following in the figurative and literal footsteps of his dad Roger and late grandfather John — both fellow cast members — Parker is one of the most popular figures on “Gold Rush.” At the age of 22, he’s the part-owner of the Big Nugget mine and has already mined over $13 million in gold.

The journey is inspired by his grandfather’s memory, the kind of connection between cast members that endears fans to those onscreen. Hoffman echoes that sentiment, noting that even as their business is about making money, there’s more to it than mere wealth.

“It’s not just about the gold for me,” he said. “Life is so much more than money and gold. God put me on this earth for a reason and I’m trying to live that out. It just so happens to be on a reality TV show.”

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