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Reality Check: 'Bering Sea Gold' plumbs the depths for TV drama

  • Author: Emily Fehrenbacher
    | Reality Check
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published May 6, 2015

Sometimes reality TV gives us great human moments, like the Bruce Jenner interview, that enlighten us to the struggles of real people. Sometimes reality TV even highlights some important social and cultural issues, like "16 and Pregnant." And sometimes reality TV is "Bering Sea Gold."

If you are not at home on Friday nights watching Discovery Channel, here's the deal with "Bering Sea Gold." There are several underwater gold dredges trying to make their millions off the bottom of the Bering Sea. They range from fancy, seaworthy vessels to dinky floating cabins that look more like what you'd see in a horror movie than a working dredge. Most of the dredges are owned by families, and when families own businesses together, they fight -- making for good television.

The star of the show is dredge owner and captain Emily Riedel. Based on some Internet research it seems like she was cast in this role because of her family's history in the mining industry, while she was trying to be an opera singer. There were a few questionable Riedel moments in my "Bering Sea Gold" marathon this week.

First, her apartment. There is a box of Franzia on her kitchen counter. I know there probably aren't a lot of options in Nome, but Franzia equals hangover. There is also a small photo of a girl in a bikini next to a giant Seahawk flag on the wall. Is her apartment actually owned by an 18-year-old boy? Second, Riedel almost exclusively wears off-the-shoulder shirts. Nothing that she owns has a neck, except for a shirt that appears to be two plaid shirts vertically sewn together. I realize I'm not writing about what any of the men on "Bering Sea Gold" wear. I get it. I can't help it. Finally, she jumped into the Bering Sea in a bikini while her diver was underwater. Her diver who had to be pulled up for "over-breathing" and maxing out his oxygen tank. Beyond the freezing water, that seems like sketchy captaining.

The second biggest source of drama comes out of the Kelly family rig, The Reaper. First, I'm shocked it stays afloat, because it looks like a small pontoon boat that you would use for a booze cruise around the Ozarks. The Reaper is owned by Brad Kelly and his two adult sons, whom Brad steals gold from to pay for his newborn baby. When his child is being born he decides to put dish soap in his son's mask, which of course burns his eyes so he can't stay underwater, thus allowing Brad to leave to meet his child. They are a hot mess.

The best moment I've seen in "Bering Sea Gold" happened when one of the Kelly sons was throwing the anchor overboard, but he didn't let go in time and fell in the water. I know it's serious and everything, and the Bering Sea is dangerously cold, but watching people clumsily fall in water is 100 percent hilarious.

Speaking of hilarious, this season we got to meet Gabe Tenhoff, Zeke Tenhoff's younger brother. Actually, he's more of a "brah." When the camera introduces him he's standing on the dredge twerking/air humping. He then does the same thing while underwater. He's a solid addition.

Finally, the Au Grabber and the Christine Rose are kind of boring, because they are actually good at underwater gold mining. They've got these giant backhoes on their dredges; the dude brahs like Gabe just can't compete.

Unfortunately, some sad news to round out the week. My favorite denim-overall-wearing human, Jimmy Gaydos, from "Ultimate Survival Alaska" Season 2, died of a gunshot wound on Monday. The case is under investigation as a homicide. RIP, Jimmy. RIP.

Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage, where she reviews Alaska reality TV. You can reach her at or on Twitter @ETFBacher.