There are reasons good dramas and documentaries are more interesting than game shows and their reality offshoots. And they can be found in one of two new Discovery offerings: “Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice” (8 p.m.) and “Yukon Men” (9 p.m.).
While “Gold” claims to document the “real” lives of men dedicated (or dumb) enough to scour for precious metals under the frozen seas off Nome, Alaska, in the dead of winter, everything about it seems contrived. It’s a treasure hunt narrated by a guy doing a bad John Wayne impersonation, and filled with characters saying fake profundities like, “The gold don’t care.”
As in, the gold don’t care if it’s summer or winter, or if we find it or not, or if we live or die, etc. You half expect him to spit some chewing tobacco juice into the campfire as he speaks. Yeah buddy, the gold don’t care, and that goes double for me.
In contrast, “Men” follows the life-and-death struggles of people who live in a tiny town not far from the Arctic Circle. Nowhere near roads and prone to winter temperatures that regularly plummet to 40 below zero, these folks cling to a way of life that requires tireless struggle and resourcefulness.
It takes a certain self-reliant type to answer the call when the freezer runs out of meat or the woodpile dwindles in middle of February. Now I doubt if the Discovery camera crews were living off caribou jerky while shooting “Men,” but the struggles here seem real enough. These “Men” aren’t treasure hunting; they’re hunting, trapping and logging to survive. There’s a difference. And that’s why I found “Men” and its subjects captivating, and dismissed “Gold” and its prospectors as annoying at best.
• Far from the frozen tundra, “America’s Next Top Model” (7 p.m., CW) returns for another season. Big news: This is its first “College” edition.
Tonight’s other highlights
• In preseason NFL action (7 p.m., CBS) the New York Giants host the Chicago Bears.
• Cliff Robertson plays a young Navy Lt. John F. Kennedy in the 1963 drama “PT 109” (7 p.m., Military).
• “Nazi Underworld” (7 p.m., National Geographic) offers a peek at the private lives of public monsters.
• Kane raids the staffs of rivals to buttress his ranks on “Boss” (8 p.m., Starz).
• A revenge plot ends badly on “Deadly Women” (9 p.m., ID).