It started with Gold Rush, a show about a group of hillbillies from outside Salem, OR who inexplicably decide the only way to pay their bills was to move to Alaska and strip mine the most beautiful land in the country. Here's how this decision seems to have gone: "Our tiny airport is going bankrupt." "I tried gold mining 30 years ago and sucked at it." "Let's borrow a bunch of money and move to Alaska to give you a second chance."
Then Discovery realized that they could combine Gold Rush with another of my favorite shows about unsafe workers, Deadliest Catch, to to make an even more dangerous and stupid show, Bering Sea Gold. I was at the Seattle aquarium recently and they wear back-up O2 tanks when they dive in 10 feet of safe water to feed fish. The miners don't have emergency air tanks when they dive under 30 feet of ice to vacuum gold off the floor of the Bering Sea. Every episode with no deaths is a total miracle.
The newest addition to the lineup is Jungle Gold wherein a couple completely unlikable American men move to Ghana to pull precious metals from the African Gold Belt. Instead of loveable Oregon hicks, these are former real estate tycoons and MMA fighters from Salt Lake City. Every week they're confronted by armed Chinese miners, swindled by locals, or yelled at by their American investors. It's filmed like a horror movie and so far, nothing good has happened to any of them. It's beautiful.
If these people were getting rich and living the good life, I couldn't watch them. But Discovery knows I want to feel superior while also watching unlicensed people drive heavy machinery. It's a perfect combination like sweat pants and pizza or unemployment and cable TV.