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“Gold Rush” Producer Christo Doyle Talks About the Show’s Formula for Success

The Discovery Channel series begins its fifth season Friday.

Still from Gold Rush courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

The success of Gold Rush, one of Discovery Channel’s most popular series, seems simple: The more gold miners discover, the more viewers the show gets. And since season five, which premieres at 9 PM on Friday, is said to have more gold then ever before, the show’s future looks good. But executive producer Christo Doyle says the show’s success stems from the wish-fulfillment aspect as much as the action. “For someone like me, who works in an office environment all day every day, it’s sexy to think about dropping everything you’re doing and going North on a treasure hunt,” he says.

Doyle, who’s based in Chevy Chase, has been with the show since it was started in 2010 and with Discovery Channel since 1999. Gold Rush, for anyone unfamiliar, follows three mine bosses and each of their five- to ten-member crews on their hunt for gold in the same area where the original gold rush took place at the end of the 19th century. Because it’s a reality show, Doyle and the rest of the production team have little control over what takes place and how much gold is uncovered. They can choose which miners are followed and how much screen time each gets, but little beyond that. “We have to take what we’re given and tell the greatest story we can,” says Doyle.

For season five, according to Discovery’s Sarah Morgan, the crew was filming up until last week, so the turnaround time can be tight. This is especially challenging because the show’s key players—the production team, the miners, and Doyle—are nowhere near each other. The production team is based in London, the miners are hunting for gold in the Yukon, and Doyle is based in Washington. In order to travel to Dawson, where the show is filmed—about a four-day drive from Portland, Oregon—Doyle would need to take four different planes. “Each plane gets smaller and smaller, until you’re in a type of Indiana Jones duct tape on the ceiling situation,” he says. Understandably, he’s only made the trip three times thus far.

But there is one aspect of the show he is especially close to, both geographically and professionally: Gold Rush’s supplemental series, The Dirt. Doyle is the host of the hourlong show, which is filmed in Fairfax and allows super-fans to learn about the many events that were left out of the finished episodes. It’s aired immediately before Gold Rush to get viewers hyped for what’s to come, but it’s its own animal. “We can have a lot more fun on The Dirt than they have on the show,” says Doyle. “We can laugh at things. We can get serious about things. We can call each other out about things.” And they can interact with viewers via social media—all in service of translating the unpredictable thrill of striking gold into reliable entertainment.

Gold Rush season five premieres October 17 at 9 PM on the Discovery Channel.