One of the more appealing myths of American history is the idea of pioneers heading west, then striking it rich as part of the original Gold Rush.
This great concept has sparked a thousand stories in both movies and novels, and one of the latest spins on this tale is Gold Rush, the reality TV series on the Discovery Channel.
The concept is generally a little different when it gets updated, of course. Rather than focus exclusively on individuals, Gold Rush pits several family-run mining companies against one another as they struggle to strike gold in Alaska and the Yukon region of Canada.
The show is currently in its 12th season, with spin offs that have covered the search for gold in other parts of the world, so the producers clearly must be doing something right. One of the most intriguing questions about Gold Rush, however, is how much of it is real and how much is fake.
Real Gold Rush vs Reality TV
We’ll never get a full answer to this question, of course, but there’s one thing we can assume for sure – Gold Rush is definitely not 100 percent real.
For verification of that, we can thank Jimmy Dorsey, a cast member who claimed that the Gold Rush crew edited footage to create heroes and villains and pump up the drama of the various storylines. Shocking!
Common though that tactic may be, there are other Gold Rush tactics that raise automatic questions about creditable ethics, although the word “ethics” probably doesn’t belong in any sentence written about reality TV.
One questionable tactic, for instance, involves water usage and water rights that are an essential part of the gold mining process.
In the real version of reality TV, government reps went out to the filming site to show the cast and crew how to divert water from a stream rather than tapping into groundwater.
That’s not exactly a sexy plot device, though, so the producers decided that the process of getting water from the stream without following the rules could be a considerable source of drama.
They ended up getting fined for their actions, and according to the rumors the producers were actually annoyed when the matter got settled amicably.
The incentives the show offers are another issue that’s been surrounded by controversy. Reality TV is notorious for creating all kinds of wild incentives, the goal being to get cast members and participants to do things that are borderline insane, but highly entertaining.
For Gold Rush, that means neglecting maintenance on the mining equipment. The idea is to create breakdowns that are highly dramatic, especially for the inexperienced miners that are typically featured on the show.
Dorsey has been a gold mine (sorry) when it comes to revealing behind the scenes details about Gold Rush. He claims the show is highly scripted, even the faceoff between Dorsey and another miner named Greg that actually left Dorsey with broken ribs.
It’s all entertaining stuff, and it’s part of the reason that Gold Rush has developed a following. People will do a seemingly endless array of stupid, dangerous things to get rich quick, and Gold Rush certainly does know its way around stupid, dangerous things. So if you’re into that particular combination, feel free to tune in to see what they do this time around in season 12.