The Discovery Channel’s newest series, “Homestead Rescue,” could be one of the most educational survival television programs since the introduction of reality TV. It also could be one of the most damning confirmations of the dumbing down of America in history.
With more than two million families living off grid in the U.S., the show is a testament to the growing popularity of sustainable living, and offers a glimpse into the potential for this movement’s growth.
But if the families asking for help are a reflection of the society at large, and its inability to grasp the harsh reality of living without modern conveniences, the movement will die a quick and painful death.
The show’s concept is pretty simple. Have an extremely successful homesteading family from the cruel climate of Alaska travel the country to help new homesteaders on the brink of collapse. What sets it apart is that most survival shows focus on experts facing challenges 99.9 percent of the viewers will never encounter, while “Homestead Rescue” addresses issues that are actually applicable for anyone wishing to live a more self-reliant lifestyle, in any setting.
The hour-long show stars Marty Raney, the mustachioed, outspoken cowboy with several lifetimes of experience in the wild, and his two adult children Matt and Misty each respectively serving as the show’s expert hunter and gatherer.
During the first season’s six episodes, Marty leads his family’s efforts to fix systemic problems in and around endangered homesteads across the country. In most cases, he uses his is extraordinary construction skills to build needed infrastructure or remove surrounding dangers. His other job is to act as the ambassador to the head of the desperate homesteaders.
As the expert gatherer (farmer), Misty tends to teach the matriarchs how to care for their livestock and harvest food sources. Matt (the hunter) is charged with teaching family members how to hunt for food and protect the homestead from natural predators.
During each show, the Raney’s use an astounding amount of imagination and knowledge to tackle numerous issues, in various climates. But honestly, they should get a Nobel Peace Prize primarily for their patience, because the level of ignorance demonstrated by the failing homesteaders is almost insulting.
In the season opener, Mike and Beth Ettinger claimed to have planned 15 years for their move off grid, yet they spent $30,000 to purchase a dilapidated home in Montana with no natural water supply or any plan to get it. In addition, their property had no flat land for a garden, and was completely shaded by the surrounding forest. And it only got worse from there.
They claimed to be gardeners, hunters and canners back in their Pennsylvania city life, but in six months, they failed to build a greenhouse, start a garden or build a pen for their livestock. Every day, Mike’s homesteading life consisted of chopping wood, and driving 88 miles round-trip to buy 20 gallons water and food supplies.
“Didn’t expect it to be quite this hard,” said an exasperated Beth. “It’s a lot of work.”
Yet, the Raney’s butt heads with these failing homesteaders because Beth consistently claims to be the “take control” type and wants things her way. Meanwhile, the control freak lives without the simple necessities critical to survival.
The rest of the season gets no better when it comes to the stubbornness and the mind-blowing ignorance of the homesteaders in need.
We have Millennials who insist on raising their livestock free-range because it’s evil to confine chickens and pigs. Never mind that every day the family finds their food disappearing because predators have easy access to the roaming, defenseless animals.
A young couple lives without an outhouse (a different kind of free-range), among other problems. Another family refuses to ask the adult kids to help finish their own home in the middle of a harsh winter. And, a family in the Nevada desert didn’t grasp the concept of having access to water before they planted their crops.
And on, and on, and on, it goes.
The Raney’s deal with oblivious households, pie-in-the-sky dreams, laziness and the kind of twisted “morality” that only a spoiled child could live by when food and water magically appears in the refrigerator.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s very, very good.
To be fair, we know that Reality TV’s selective editing exaggerates statements and situations. For some reason, right or wrong, producers feel the public isn’t capable of appreciating a show without clear, dramatic lines drawn between good and bad, even if its not actual “reality” of the situation. And in “Homestead Rescue” this is clearly the case.
On the positive side, in every episode the family in need reveals heart and a down-to-earth desire to do the right thing.
More importantly, as the Raney’s demonstrate what really, very smart, and incredibly resourceful (and patient) teachers they are, the show pays off for the viewer.
Besides the stars of the show, “Homestead Rescue” is worth watching because it excels at highlighting the deep desire of these families to abandon the plastic, twisted environment of the modern world for a simple, self-reliant lifestyle.
“All the sweat, all the sore muscles, all the long days, pale to insignificance to that man’s tears,” Marty Raney says when one man cries over the strides made to save his homestead.
We know that the people asking for the Raney’s help, and agreeing to have their failures exposed on television, will serve a greater good.
By revealing their own ignorance and twisted logic, these families may save the lives of future wannabe homesteaders. By exposing their ignorance and their dependence on the “magic” of modern living, the wannabes may think twice before sell everything and move to some dangerously remote area.
PBN highly recommends “Homestead Rescue” for anyone interested in learning about the good, bad, and ugly of off-grid living. Just be patient, and take notes.
This first season aired on Fridays at 10 p.m. EDT, and is now available on Discovery GO. There have been no announcements regarding the dates and times for season two, but a second season of “Homestead Rescue” is planned for the network.