'Gold Rush: Alaska' is a gem

The miners stand around a fire and discuss The miners stand around a fire and discuss what they are going to do at the gold claim about 40 miles north of Haines, Alaska on Tuesday Oct. 5, 2010. Todd Hoffman, from Sandy Oregon, is leading of a group for friends and their families on a make or break venture to mine gold in the Southeast Alaska wilderness to provide for their families in the face of the current economic meltdown. Discovery Channel Photo Credit: Discovery Channel /

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: There's gold in them thar hills.

WHEN/WHERE: Friday night at 10 on Discovery

Down in the Lower 48, Jack and Todd Hoffman have been ground into oblivion by the recession. A father and son, they run a small airport out of Sandy, Ore., and now they've got to find another way to make ends meet. Well? Gold!

Jack's got a friend who will let him mine a claim up near Porcupine Creek in southeastern Alaska. First, Jack and Todd have to haul an armada of equipment to the site. The grubstakers are joined by a bunch of other down-and-out pals. But they are warned: Almost no one gets rich doing this.

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MY SAY "Gold Rush" is one of those reality shows full of grinding metal, whining gears and men with generous guts and a facility with four-letter words. It all unfolds under endless cerulean skies framed by towering Alaskan peaks still encased in spring snow. This all looks and feels deeply elemental - man against nature - but the more immediate subtext is the economy and those who will do just about anything to put food on the table. You wonder where these guys got the money to pay for the vast cache of equipment, or how Discovery even found them to base an entire reality series on their exploits.

But no matter. Before long, you'll buy into this modern-age Jack London adventure. Discovery dutifully reminds us that only three out of 1,000 prospectors actually make any money finding gold. The inherently dramatic question that doesn't even need to be asked: Will Jack and Todd be among them?

BOTTOM LINE A winner. And for the Hoffmans' sake - plus family and friends along for the ride - let's hope there is gold in that hard, cold ground.

GRADE A

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