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), the new show from "Man Vs Wild" star Grylls ("Get Out Alive", on NBC) and "Mountain Men".
History Channel's new "Mountain Men" isn't as enjoyable as some of the other offerings, but it's focuses on three different men whose "living off the land" is a way of daily life. As the back of the box so helpfully reminds us, "No cell phones. No TV. No fast food." (Not even an IPOD?) Additionally, it's not even a matter of having "fast food" nearby, but it's a matter of not even really having a grocery store nearby - the grocery store (as we see in the show on a number of occasions) is the wild.
Overall, the series is an interesting 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.
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: while the wilds may be the grocery store for those who live off the land, there are occasionally unfriendly fellow shoppers, including bears, who make their presence known in episodes like "The Final Stand". Relationship difficulties also appear at times, as the difficulty of the lifestyle (and tough decisions that often have to be made quickly) results in anger and stress. Overall, "Mountain Men" is a very interesting look at this rough and rewarding lifestyle.
This set includes the entire first season of the series: "Winter Is Coming", "Mayhem", "Lost", "Surviving Winter", "Show me the Money", "The Final Stand" and "This is the End".
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: 25 minutes of deleted scenes. The deleted scenes were best left on the editing room floor, but that doesn't mean that they don't offer a few interesting personal moments and further define the main characters.
Final Thoughts: "Mountain Men" does a fine job taking viewers into the lives of three men and their families who have to literally live off the land - and all the benefits and difficulty that comes with that choice. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a one minor supplement. A light recommendation for fans of the genre.