No matter how successful a reality television series might be, it could still end up having bashers or trolls who would criticize it for being scripted or fake, as is the case of the spin-off “Hoffman Family Gold.” Millions of viewers followed the Hoffmans in their gold mining adventure in “Gold Rush” for eight seasons from its premiere in 2010 until they left the show in 2018. Much to the excitement of their fans, they returned to the mining scene in 2022 with their own show, and it was received well. However, some found the storyline too far-fetched to be real.
Background on the show
“Hoffman Family Gold” premiered on 25 March 2022, produced by Lionsgate’s Pilgrim Media Group for Discovery Channel, and also available for streaming through Discovery Plus. It featured Jack, Todd and Hunter Hoffman as they returned to gold mining after a four-year hiatus.
The Hoffmans’ search for gold began in “Gold Rush”
Jack Hoffman had said in “Gold Rush”, while mining for one of the most expensive and precious metals on earth, ‘There isn’t a man in America, if he’s got anything inside him, who wouldn’t want to be here with us.’ The thought of finding the mother lode and striking it rich was probably enough to lure any man to head out and start mining – Jack’s son Todd Hoffman was one of them.
The economic recession drove Todd’s family to venture into gold mining
America was hit hard by the economic recession in 2007-2008 – many families lost their homes and lived on food stamps, including Todd’s friends. The Hoffmans owned a small airfield in Sandy, a city in Clackamas County, Oregon, and with their finances looking bleak for them, they thought of selling their business.
Todd said he didn’t have a degree, so he couldn’t get a job, and even if he wanted to, there were no work opportunities for him. He believed that prospecting for gold would be their best bet for the future. Jack was on board with this, despite nearly going bankrupt in the 1980s when he mined for three seasons. He did find nuggets of gold out of the ground, but the selling price then was too low. This time, things would be different, as it was at an all-time high.
Leased a gold claim in Porcupine Creek
They traveled to Alaska, where it was said that an estimated $250 billion worth of gold was still buried. The most crucial part was finding the right place for gold, a mining claim granting its holder the right to extract gold. They found one in 160 acres of rock and forest around a ghost town in Porcupine Creek in Southeastern Alaska, owned by Jack’s old mining buddy, Earle Foster. Gold was discovered along Porcupine Creek in 1898, and for over a century, men risked their lives prospecting for gold, but only a small percentage of those who set out struck it rich.
It was said that close to $100 million worth of gold had already been dug up from this claim, but based on geological samples, there was still $15 million worth of gold under the ground waiting to be found. Earle said that so far, no one had ever prospected on his claim using heavy machinery; this meant that the Hoffmans would have a better chance of recovering all the remaining gold from the ground.
Risked everything to mine gold
Back in Oregon, the Hoffmans sold everything that was not nailed down to pay for the equipment and supplies they would need for gold mining in the Alaskan wilderness. Their unemployed and down-on-their-luck buddies joined them, but each would be paying their own way until they struck gold, because the Hoffmans had no spare cash for their wages. Times were so tough that everyone was prepared to take their chances on a share of the profit.
Eight seasons of gold mining
For their first mining season, they spent five months in Alaska and spent $275,000, but unfortunately the mine only yielded 14.6 ounces of gold worth around $20,000. Instead of quitting, they continued to mine with bigger and better equipment the following year, still believing that they could make it work. Except for the one in Guyana, South America in season four of “Gold Rush,” where they mined a mere two ounces of gold and about $1000 worth of diamonds before they were forced to leave, they were making good money the rest of the time. The largest amount of gold they recovered was in season six, at over $3,000 ounces worth more than $3 million.
— Gold Rush – The Dirt (@thedirtGR) April 11, 2022
Left “Gold Rush” 2018
In the “Gold Rush Live” special in season eight, Todd announced his exit from the show after nine years. He was quite emotional talking about how it had become an important part of his life, and how he believed that in their search for gold, his family played a small part in giving hope back to America, and was grateful to Discovery Channel for giving him the opportunity to do this. Many fans were surprised by this interview, as quite often a cast member just stopped appearing in a reality show with no explanation from the network, producers, and sometimes the stars themselves.
Todd said that he, his father Jack, and his son Hunter wouldn’t be returning to the show the following season. When asked what led him to this decision, he said that he was away from home for six to seven months when mining gold, and that it had taken a toll on his kids. When the time came and he stood before his God, he knew that God was not going to care how much gold he’d mined; he felt that it was time to quit.
His father said, ‘Little did I dream that we would ever have this crazy adventure of mining in faraway places. I couldn’t be prouder.’ His mom shared that Todd was the rock of the family and that he was an honorable man who reached out to those in need and in trouble. His co-star and fellow gold miner, Parker Schnabel, said he and Todd engaged in a healthy and sometimes unhealthy competition, as they pushed each other hard. It helped him, and hoped that Todd got something out of the whole experience as well.
Todd said that leaving was tough, but this chapter in his life had to end before he could start a new one. His plans for the future included pursuing other interests such as his company, ZUM media, and producing family-oriented content. He also planned to focus more on his singing career, and made mention of a music video he’d posted on his Facebook page.
The Hoffmans are back
Many were surprised when news came out in 2021 that the Hoffmans would star in the spin-off series of “Gold Rush” entitled “Hoffman Family Gold.” Some recalled that before leaving the original show, Todd did say that he wasn’t done mining, although he didn’t wish to elaborate at that time. No one knew for sure if this was his plan all along, as he was the executive producer of the new series as shown on the ending credits. or if the pandemic hit his family hard, and he believed that mining gold would help their financial situation.
Looking back, Todd said that no matter how much gold they were able to recover, time came when it was no longer worth it, as it caused him to lose his focus on what really mattered to him. The years that passed had helped his family to heal, but he admitted that he’d never really lost the itch for mining. His dad also missed dredging for gold, and had even built a small wash plant out in their yard.
The premise of the reality-TV series
Todd received a phone call from friend Jason Otteson, who was last seen in season three of “Gold Rush” as the Hoffmans’ main investor. Jason was struggling with the Mammoth Valley mine 100 miles north of Nome, Alaska, and asked a favor from Todd to look into his operation and see if he could take over. He claimed that it had a lot of gold, but was difficult to mine as it was in the middle of nowhere, sitting at the center of Seward Peninsula. Todd brought in experts he had worked with before, such as Randy Hubler whom he described as the best bush mechanic, and Andy Spinks, a foreman, to evaluate the mine. He wanted to know exactly what he was getting into before he said yes to Jason.
The mine had a lot of problems, including two out of three mining plants not working, but Todd found more gold than he expected when he did a test run. He and Jason struck up a deal for a long-term lease on the condition that the latter could break even that season with $1 million worth of gold. It was a risky venture, as they only had a third of the mining season left before winter would set in, but Todd was confident that they could do it.
At the mine, there were buckets of concentrate in their storage that were yet to undergo the clean-up process. A concentrate was the dirt captured in the carpets and mats of the mining plants, and this was where the gold would be found. This meant that Jason had no idea how much gold his team had recovered so far – they extracted 306 ounces from the concentrate, and the Hoffmans had to come up with the remaining balance. Season one revolved around producing the gold they needed to meet their goal of having a total of 600 ounces of gold.
The Hoffman crew
As the three generations of the Hoffmans returned to gold mining, Todd said, ‘If you don’t go out and live a life of adventure, man, you’re missing out because your days are numbered.’ He explained that gold mining was an unfinished business for them, and that with his father not having a lot of time left, he wanted him to just live out his dream. This was also a chance to set his family up for generations.
Jack said that as old as he was, he could still clean gold, so he was good to go, but it was his last shot at gold mining. At first, Hunter had some misgivings about going, as not only had he set up a gas installation company with his buddy, but also his experience on their last mining season in 2018 in Colorado wasn’t good. The land was rough, he worked six to seven days a week, and he would often get into an argument with his dad. It had got so bad that he would sleep in his truck, and not go back to their quarters. Also, when told that the mine was rich, he just didn’t believe it, because it was what everybody would say about their mine. Todd convinced him to go primarily because Hunter loved an adventure with his grandfather, and wanted to have this memory with him. Hunter brought his friend and business partner Nick along, and were joined by Jim Thurber, who was also part of their crew in “Gold Rush.” Andy Spinks brought his son, Dakota, with him.
Why fans think that the storyline of the TV series is fake?
He just wanted to be a reality star
Todd received flak back in “Gold Rush” for what some believed was inefficiency or incompetence on his part and why things often went wrong at the mine each season. He admitted that he wasn’t a miner, but just an average guy who was tired of sitting at home and not making money. He also said that he didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to mine gold – only the guts to try it. Fans wondered why he would gamble $100,000 or double that over a business venture of which he had no prior experience or knowledge. It didn’t help that he once said that people could laugh all they wanted, but God gave him a vision for the original show. Some thought that the spin-off wouldn’t be any different, and that what he was really aiming for was a chance to be part of a reality-TV series again.
Discovered a huge gold nugget in a test run
To evaluate a mine’s potential, one had to gauge if the ground had gold in sufficient quantity to be profitable when extracted. 100 yards of dirt were first excavated, and then processed until only the gold remained – the value was computed by the weight of the gold per 100 yards or over 90 meters of pay dirt. Todd said that the best ground they had mined in the past had one ounce of gold per 100 yards, but he was hoping for a bit more this time to make mining there worth it. They ran the trommel up, and as they checked the sluice box, its carpet was packed with gold, and they even found a big nugget of gold. As they tested the dirt, it was five ounces per 100, and this was highly unusual, which was why some fans believed that it was all staged. They couldn’t believe why Jason would pass it up to the Hoffmans when he could continue with his operation and earn more himself instead of just breaking even.
Too much drama injected into the narrative
Like any other reality show, when there was too much drama, fans automatically assumed that it was staged or scripted – dredging for gold episode after episode would be boring without something happening to break the monotony. The writers and directors of the series were good at creating suspense, such as making viewers feel anxious about whether or not the Hoffmans were going to recover enough gold to keep their end of the bargain that they made with the owner of the gold claim. Everyone knew that the mining lease was at stake.
For the finale, they were short of 47 ounces but they still had the concentrate from the big trommel to see how much gold they could recover after the final clean-up. The team was gathered in a room as they waited for the big reveal. Everyone was relieved when they learned that the gold they extracted weighed 60.95 ounces, exceeding their goal. Jason granted them the multi-year lease as agreed upon, and while Todd was happy with that, he knew that he still needed several million dollars worth of equipment to continue mining.
“Hoffman Family Gold” renewed for season two?
There’s been no announcement yet from the network on the status of the TV series, but their fans wouldn’t be surprised if the family returned the following year. Hunter announced during the season one finale that when he made a test run on another area, he extracted 86 ounces per 100 yards of pay dirt, much to the excitement of everyone. His grandfather always said whenever they stepped onto a mine that they were all millionaires, they just had to get it out of the ground. Hunter said that those words couldn’t be truer in this property. They might never run out of naysayers, but what was important was that there were more people who believed in them, and who would continue to follow them in their gold mining journey.