Given the massive public outcry about the financial shell game that triggered the economic crash of 2008, the success of the Discovery Channel's reality series "Gold Rush" is hardly surprising. The father-son team of Jack and Todd Hoffman, alongside the Schnabel family and the Dakota Boys crew, have captured the imagination of an economically unsteady nation as they search, dig, and fight for something of tangible value.
"You have a metal that has a worldwide value," says Todd Hoffman, the 41-year-old, heavily-bearded face of the show, who has revived his father's dream of striking it rich in placer mining. "A dollar bill in your pocket is a perceived value. You can tell when you go to the grocery store - it hurts."
The gregarious Hoffman infuses the show (Season Four kicks off Friday, October 25) with plenty of comic asides and that gregariousness comes through in conversation. With the low rate of success in gold mining - he claims that no more than two percent of expeditions are profitable - it's certainly not for everyone, and he has to be upbeat. Otherwise, he admits, "You're better off running a taxicab or starting a deli."
But if you dream of gold, Hoffman is here to urge you to start digging. Job security, he says, can be a killer. The fear of what will happen if you throw it all away is sometimes your biggest obstacle.
"You have to find some way to take that fear and realize, if I don't get over this, I'm never going to take that step out," he says. "A lot of times debt puts handcuffs on you. Young men have got to be careful how you design your life. If you're having kids super early or launching a bunch of debt on property, you're not giving yourself the freedom to attack a dream."
Failing is part of the process, says Hoffman, who claims he's been a millionaire three times over so far in his life (implying that he's lost it at least twice). "A lot of millionaires, they'll have a string of failures, even if they don't like to talk about it."
By necessity, many Americans have had to reinvent themselves since the crash a few years ago. Hoffman is a big advocate of reinvention long before it becomes a last resort.
"I throw Hail Marys," he says. "Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. You try to learn from the ones that didn't work, and you try to position yourself to get back in there and throw another."
It's no accident that his brand of reinvention follows a tradition nearly as old as the country itself – the idea that a man can pack up and head out in search of the gold in them thar hills.
"You can't get any more basic than that," he says. "The other gold rushes, it was the same thing. There were things going on in the economy, and they said 'F this.'"
Hoffman and his father returned about a month ago from their latest trip - this one to South America. Now they'll sit back and watch their most recent adventure unfold in the new season.
"I either did really, really good or really, really bad," he reports. One thing is for sure: Whatever the outcome, he'll soon dust himself off and get out there again.
More information: Season Four of 'Gold Rush' premieres Friday, October 25, at 9 pm EST, on Discovery Channel.