Shows about survival in difficult conditions have been increasing quite a bit lately. The genre has always been a compelling one, given the tension and drama inherent in watching people trying to sustain themselves in difficult conditions as well as the educational aspects. Many outdoorsfolk have talked about being saved by tricks or tips that they learned while watching shows like "Survivorman" and "Man Vs. Wild".
The latest round of shows in the genre include Discovery's highly tense "Naked and Afraid" (as for that show, 21 days in the middle of nowhere with next-to-nothing, no clothes and with someone you never met - no way to earn additional items through challenges and no grand prize at the end just the potential of some mysterious entity raising or lowering your survival score), the return of "Survivorman" (which remains such a haunting, beautiful series) and "Mountain Men". "Naked and Afraid" - which has somehow managed to turn up the tension as that series has gone on - remains a favorite (21 days in the wild, naked ...for the chance that your primitive survival rating may be moved up or down), but "Mountain Men" still has a lot going for it.
History Channel's "Mountain Men" isn't as enjoyable as some of the other offerings, but it's focus remains on three different men whose "living off the land" is a way of daily life. Once again, these men really live out in the wild - there's no conveniences, no fast food, no grocery. No 4G, no Ipad, no nothing - it's living on one's wits and smarts and skills.
In all seriousness, the series reminds me a little of "Dirty Jobs", which started in part because host Mike Rowe realized how under-appreciated many common jobs are. "Mountain Men" may strain a little at times to create drama for TV, but at its core, the series really does show the difficulty and reward of living a lifestyle that is brutal at times, but also creates remarkable survival skills that are not nearly as appreciated (or just have been plain forgotten) in the digital age, where everything is at our fingertips and we've almost come to expect certain conveniences.
Overall, the series remains a mostly compelling look at three different men (Eustace Conway, Marty Meierotto and the (probably good at canoeing) Tom Oar living in very different climates: Conway lives in the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina, Oar lives in Montana and finally, Meierotto lives in a small Alaskan town. Starting in the second season, new characters join the series, including fur trapper Charlie, who works in the Great North Woods of Maine with his friend, Jim.
There has been some criticism that the series has pumped up the drama and while there may be some of that, the series presents a lot of elements that are certainly not unexpected in the situation including brute force weather conditions and potentially dangerous predators lurking out in the wilds, including coyotes ("Settling the Score"), wolves ("Thin Ice") and more. Some of the highlights of this season include: "End of the Line" (Charlie spends the night injured and alone in Maine), "Disaster Strikes" (Rick's cougar hunt takes a dark turn, while Marty competes with a wolf pack for food), "Last Chance" (Tom struggles to prep deer after a hunt before the smell attracts bears) and "Into the Wild" (Eustace's home comes under threat from developers.) It's fascinating to see how inventive and whip-fast these people have to be as they keep themselves going with little-to-nothing in the way of modern day conveniences.
Overall, "Mountain Men" is a very interesting look at this rough and rewarding lifestyle.
1 "Into the Wild" June 9, 2013
2 "The Night's Watch" June 16, 2013
3 "Winter Strikes" June 23, 2013
4 "Last Chance" June 30, 2013
5 "Three Toes Returns" July 7, 2013
6 "Bloody Sunday" July 14, 2013
7 "No Way Out" July 21, 2013
8 "Disaster Strikes" July 28, 2013
9 "End of the Line" August 4, 2013
10 "Thin Ice" August 11, 2013
11 "Going For Broke" August 18, 2013
12 "Ticking Clock" August 25, 2013
13 "Settling the Score" September 8, 2013
14 "Judgment Day" September 15, 2013
15 "Meltdown" September 22, 2013
16 "Misty Mountain" September 29, 2013
Video: The History Channel presents the series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation remained reasonably smooth and crisp through much of the program, although there were a few softer moments briefly spotted. A few minor traces of pixelation were seen,but the presentation otherwise looked fine,with bold, natural colors.
Audio: Dolby 2.0 audio is offered. It gets the job done, but given the outdoor environments, it's a missed opportunity that the show's audio isn't in 5.1
Extras: A bit over half an hour of deleted scenes are offered in the set. The footage mostly seemed rightly left on the cutting room floor, but there's some good character moments and a few tense bits. Fans will likely appreciate the additional footage.
Final Thoughts: "Mountain Men" does a fine job taking viewers into the lives of three men and their families who have to struggle to live off the land and face all the highs and lows that come with that choice. The nature of the series makes it ripe to seem repetitive, but it still feels pretty fresh and watchable throughout this second season. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a one minor supplement. Recommended.