Review: Fool’s Gold helps to bring the television gold rush to Canadian soil

Fool's Gold title card (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Fool’s Gold title card (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

C

With Discovery spewing out series after series on gold mining (Ice Cold Gold, Bering Sea Gold, Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice, Jungle Gold, Gold RushKlondike) and History’s Yukon Gold, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Canadian incarnation of Discovery is getting into the game with its own, Fool’s Gold.

While most reality shows don’t need much explanation to grasp the overall concept, to get the most out of Fool’s Gold you have to pay close attention right from the get go. The show blows right through nearly everything you need to know about Fool’s Gold‘s premise in about two minutes. If you’re not following along closely you might wonder why these guys are in the woods yammering on about gold and doing stupid things every five minutes.

Todd Ryznar (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Todd Ryznar, owner of Straw Lake Beach Mine and Shotgun Exploration (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

The Straw Lake Beach Mine is in Ontario (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

The Straw Lake Beach Mine is in Ontario (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

To start, you’re introduced to Todd Ryznar, an entrepreneur from the small town of Atikokan, Ontario who started his business Shotgun Exploration after buying the Straw Lake Beach Mine. Now he’s mining it for gold.

The show says that between 1938 and 1941 the mine produced 11,000 ounces of gold worth about $15,000,000; however, the miners in the late 30s and 40s mined the gold in a way that left 50 per cent of the gold behind. Todd says there should be 11,000 ounces down the hill, and in his words: That’s 15 fucking million dollars. Todd’s story apparently isn’t particularly unique. Some parts of Ontario are believed to hold a lot of gold due to there being a large number of abandoned mines, and the show says many prospectors leave their lives behind in hopes of striking it rich.
Todd's Crew (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Todd’s crew [left to right: Mikey, Jimmy, Matt, Grizz, Roj, Alexa and Olivia] (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

As with most other reality shows, everyone is basically reduced to two words (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

As with most other reality shows, everyone is basically reduced to two words (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Poor Jimmy has a lot of work ahead of him before this place becomes livable (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Poor Jimmy has a lot of work ahead of him before this place becomes livable (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Anyway, to help him with his search for gold, Todd enlists a few friends. Helping him out is Matt, a goofy looking guy who started working for Todd by shovelling snow off of his roof. After picking up Matt, Todd picks up Mikey, a young guy that’s in it to live out his dream of owning a log cabin on a lake with a bunch of dogs and a garage full of large four-wheelers, boats, dirt bikes and all sorts of toys. Todd is also getting help from his childhood friends, Grizz, Jim Easton (a.k.a Jimmy) and Roj. He plans to get them interested in the gold, so they work hard for it and he doesn’t have to. Todd’s quite a charmer, isn’t he? Anyway, Grizz is one of the most distinguishable out of the bunch because of his tattoos. Jimmy’s from Port Francis and he’s a carpenter, which will prove very handy as there’s a bit of a Survivor element to the show. While no one’s getting voted out of the gold mine (that I know of), they’re presented with an uninhabitable place (a bunch of sheds) and have to fix them up to have somewhere to live during the mining process. Roj looks a bit like Paul Reiser in some scenes. Actually, he may in fact be Paul Reiser. After that dud, The Paul Reiser Show, maybe he’s assumed a new identity.

While Olivia and Alexa seem open to helping with finding gold, they're often relegated to menial tasks such as cooking and waving flags around (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

While Olivia and Alexa seem open to helping with finding gold they’re often relegated to menial tasks such as cooking and waving flags around (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Todd also asked his young, attractive cousin Alexa to help, and she brought along her friend Olivia. Alexa hasn’t had any “hard jobs” before she has worked at “a hair place,” a restaurant and a chip stand. Olivia, on the other hand, knows nothing about gold aside from jewelry. The two girls seem remarkably out of place, until you understand Todd wanted them there for “camp support,” which is another way of saying they’re there to cook, clean and take care of the dog. They also help by waving around flags during a race the boys have later in the show. Of course, since there’s one trailer, the girls have to sleep in there with three of the other guys, at least until the sheds are fixed. You gotta roll your eyes a bit at the way they seem like objects instead of people who could help out with the search for gold.

The show is filled with humour like this shed is labeled shed, to distinguish it from the other sheds, which are also sheds? (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

The show is filled with humour. For example, this shed is labeled shed, to distinguish it from the other sheds… which are also sheds? (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

The humour is all over, notice the marijuana leaf on the Canadian flag (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

The humour is all over, notice the marijuana leaf on the Canadian flag? (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Mattress races are totally and completely logical Huzzah! Gold!(screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Mattress races are totally and completely logical (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Fool’s Gold falls back on humour a lot, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. When Todd said he had to pick someone up (Matt), you might think he’d be off for a drive for at least a few minutes. Nope, he simply reversed his Hummer across the street from his driveway to Matt’s as they live across the street from each other.

A significant chunk of the humour is potty humour (they curse like sailors too) and a lot of the rest of the humour is delivered from a series of genius moves like getting a bobcat stuck on flat land or deciding the best way to compete over the open spots in the trailer was to have a mattress race. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a mattress race is, as you shouldn’t. The mattress race is a race to see who could get to the finish line first by lying down on a mattress dragged by an ATV. At times the show almost feels like a parody of itself. They’re even flying a Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf instead of a maple leaf on one of the sheds. Surprisingly, despite all that, they do wind up finding some gold, or so they think.
Sorry Alexa, what was that? I couldn't hear you. (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Sorry Alexa, what was that? I couldn’t hear you. (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Unfortunately, the quality of the show isn’t the greatest. The characters aren’t all that likable, but they grow on you. When you look at the production value, it’s disappointing as well. Somehow they messed up the audio in one of Alexa’s scenes where she’s indoors (supposedly) and talking directly to the camera. You’d think if the audio would be messed up, it’s when they’re out in the wild, but it’s fine out there. I can’t recall seeing that before, and I wonder why they couldn’t reshoot it.
Huzzah! Gold!(screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

Huzzah! Gold! (screenshot via discoverychannel.ca)

I don’t think Fool’s Gold was made for someone like me, but I could definitely see an audience for it. Fool’s Gold feels like something someone would put on if they can’t get enough of the other gold mining shows on TV, or if they’ve already watched the rerun of Duck Dynasty that’s on and are looking for something else to watch. I think Fool’s Gold would also be a great show to binge watch as a marathon on Discovery over a long weekend.

Episode reviewed: A Miner Setback
Fool’s Gold airs Tuesdays at 8 and 8:30 PM on Discovery
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