I Guess The Discovery Channel is The Hillbilly Network Now

So what’s up with the Discovery Channel and this weird phase they seem to be going through? I thought of multiple titles for this article. Like “The Weird Lifestyles of Obscure White People.” Then I thought about “Rednecks You Don’t Know Much About.” But ultimately it’s not really about the color of the people as much as it’s about subcultures within American mainstream culture.


The Discovery Channel at this point is nearly 30 years old. I actually remember when it came out. Here in Chicago we had some early cable companies (that don’t exist anymore) and my  girlfriend had cable. Actual cable TV in those days was rare, and they really didn’t have a lot of stuff to put on. I think Wikipedia gives a description of the early Discovery mandate to be something like a goal of bringing to light remote and lesser known parts of the world. Like a commercial version of PBS.And certainly the current crop of shoes is doing that, but these shows just seem SO specific about certain kinds of white people in certain kinds of situations. It’s weird as hell! For one thing I think there are like FOUR different shows about Alaska. What the hell is that about? So the common theme of these shows seems to be consistent; white people who have chosen to “go it alone” and again, I KNOW I’m pointing out the color issue but I didn’t MAKE the shows, Discovery did. And they’re making SO many of them. While at the same time they seemed to have totally divorced themselves from the educational and “worldly” thing altogether. You just can’t miss this oddly specific slant. Let’s do a quick review of these newer shows.

Flying Wild Alaska

Bering Sea Gold

Gold Rush

Sons of Guns

Ragin’ Cajuns



Having said that, older shows like Deadliest Catch and  American Chopper, basically fit this model too. But even a newer show, Man-Woman-Wild, follows the “white people going it alone” pattern as does the Dual Survival. And to be fair they DID make a show with some black people. It’s called First Week In, and yes, it’s about prison. Hahahaaa, man, come on! Hashahhaha. They show some scary black people, but guess what happened in the first episode? A black guy helped a scared white guy and loaned him his phone account.

They;re kicking ass with the t-shirts though!
Discovery Channel Shirts

Now in case you can’t tell, I AM watching the shows. Look, I’m a guy with a degree in anthropology so the insights into mainstream culture and subculture are both very interesting to me. And these shows are doing big numbers and being renewed so it stands to reason it’s interesting to a lot of other people. Because, again, it’s not regular white people it’s like outer edge type people. So I’m sure city and suburban people are just as in the dark about all these odd ways of living as I am.


Of course I watch Dirty Jobs (even though the last few season have featured fewer and fewer people of color) and I’ve watched every episode of Gold Rush. I also watch all of Moonshiners-yeah Popcorn and Tickle can’t be beat. And I even tried Ragin’ Cajuns this week with “Blimp” and his people. But according to Forrest Gump shouldn’t there be a black guy looking for “skrimps” somewhere on the show? Instead it’s class warfare-the rich guy vs the poor guy. Oh my God! I just remembered; there’s ANOTHER show about Alaska. It’s the one where these (or course) white people decide to live off the land up there. I watched about 2 episodes of that one. Man!


I’ve also had a lifelong fascination with “moving to Alaska.” I have no idea what’s that’s all about. Today it’s 10 degrees outside here in Chicago and I’ve known cold winters almost my whole life. I’ve had to endure maybe half a dozen winters without HEAT in my life. And I’ve seen snow as high as a 2 story building. We once had a fire and the Red Cross put us in motels and me and the other kids would jump off the 2nd floor balcony directly into snow the same height. But despite these harsh conditions or maybe because of them I’ve always thought I could take Alaska. I particular want to go on an icebreaker ship and wear a giant red coat.

About 20 years ago I even bought a book on how to get work on a king crab boat, then I met a guy from Sweden who had done it. But you needed like a thousand dollars just to get up there and get the cold water suit etc., so I never did it. And right around that time the show Northern Exposure came out and man, that was it. I HAD to go. And it’s been on my mind all these years. Then Sarah Palin came on the scene and just ruined my image of the place and that Senator Ted Stevens (?) didn’t help. But they were good for me. They brought me down to Earth and I learned about the rape, shootings, drunkenness up there and it was good to know. When I finally do go I’m not going with stars in my eyes or WITHOUT a gun.