“Gold Rush” (7 p.m., Discovery) ends its third season with the three teams finding (spoiler alert!) gold. The end of moose season does not end quite so successfully on “Yukon Men” (8 p.m., Discovery). But the moose might be OK with that. The antics on “Bering Sea Gold” (9 p.m., Discovery) include a joke gone awry and the need for a new dredger.
It’s no secret that shows like these are among the most popular on cable, often outdrawing network series. Their success is due to the distractive quality of extreme workplace shenanigans. But cable networks are also free to air these series repeatedly, allowing viewers to catch them at random and then make a habit of watching them.
Networks are charged with finding the largest audiences, but don’t have the flexibility of their rivals. Tonight, A&E; offers viewers all of prime time to get hooked on “Duck Dynasty” (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.). There are three “American Pickers” (7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.) on History. MTV unscrambles three installments of “Ridiculousness” (7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.). That’s a lot of the same, again and again.
It’s easy to decry the repetitive nature of these schedules, but they represent the way people watch television. In contrast, NBC spends a bundle on a show like “Smash,” only to have people dismiss it as a failure after a few outings in its second season.
Perhaps it’s time for NBC to take a page from cable. Nobody’s watching its current lineup anyway. NBC came in fifth in the February sweeps, losing to CBS, Fox, ABC and Univision. So why not shake things up? As Bob Dylan once warbled, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
Would anybody really miss “Dateline NBC” or “Rock Center With Brian Williams” tonight if the network rolled out three helpings of “Smash” instead? Is it a great show? No. Is it better than “Duck Dynasty”? Give the people a chance to decide.
Come on NBC, you’re No. 5. It’s time to try harder. Pick a show, any show: “Smash,” ‘‘Grimm,” ‘‘Revolution.” Give the people what they want. And if cable has taught us anything, it’s that the people want marathons, repeats and a chance to pick up a new habit.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Reba’s brother (Blake Shelton) wants to market a barbecue sauce with a secret ingredient on “Malibu Country” (7:30 p.m., ABC).
• The numbers point toward a reunion on “Touch” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Backstabbing on “Spartacus” (8 p.m., Starz).
• Gordon sets out to blow Carrie’s cover on “Banshee” (9 p.m., Cinemax).