I was originally going to title this little rant “Nine Things I Learned During The First 28 Minutes of Ridley Scott’s ‘Klondike”. Luckily, the most useful thing I learned from this six-hour dog of a show was how to avoid losing viewers or readers with too accurate of a title. My guess is that the original title for “Klondike” might have been something along the lines of “Will and Epstein’s Excellent Gold Rush Adventure, Except The Part Where Epstein Gets Killed”
Less than a half hour into the mini-epic tale of gold mining in the 1890’s, I had to pause it and get my laptop out to record the many lessons already learned. Here’s what I learned in the first twenty-eight minutes of the show:
- People in olden days spoke much the same we do now. Case in point: As they board a train, Will says to Epstein, “If you get me killed on the first day of the rest of my life, I’m going to be seriously pissed off.” The first part of the sentence is suspiciously close to a quote attributed to Charles Dederich in the 1960’s (“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”). The last part of the sentence, wherein one can be described as “seriously pissed” can be ascribed to any number of cast members of MTV’s Real World series. Lots of under 25-ers since then have reported being seriously high, seriously bored and seriously stoked while appearing seriously illiterate. To add a little frosted whipped topping to my point, Epstein later refers to working as a gold miner as “shit-assed hard work”, proving that butchering salty language never goes out of style.
- One sure fire way to make a period piece look a little more authentic is to throw in some cultural stereotypes. The boys, fresh from graduating college, are found in a dark smokey room, surrounded by inscrutable but vengeful Chinamen. Like all foreigners people, they have strange customs, including partaking in some sort of exotic gambling involving dried beans. When Epstein cannot pay up, the head Chinaman produces a large knife. After a madcap dash through a labyrinth of rooms, including one where an old gentleman appeared to be smoking opium in bed, the boys narrowly escape. Later, on the train, the boys can be seen winning a few bucks gambling with some of the colored folk who work on board. This pair of adventurous young bucks seem hellbent on games of chance with minorities.
- Graduating from college was a guarantee of big bucks, even in ancient times. Will reveals to Epstein that he has “$450 – every cent I got from graduation”. I didn’t score that kind of cabbage when I graduated from college, over 80 years later, but I’m not complaining. A little web research has revealed a website which gives a conversion factor to see what a buck was worth back then, compared to now. According to those formulas, Will’s college graduation wad would be worth roughly $9000 in today’s currency. It’s hard to believe with that kind of generosity that no one in the family appeared to attend the graduation ceremony (which Will left early to go find Epstein who was already gambling with the aforementioned Asians).
- Good looking people seldom wear hats. Will and Epstein climb a snow covered mountain in a conga line of wannabee miners complaining that they’ve been at it for ten days. Climbing through deep snow on a windy mountain, for a week and a half? Nah, I don’t need a hat. Later on the other side of the mountain, our boys meet an impossibly beautiful woman who remembered to pack her low cut gown with the satin bodice, but also apparently forgot to pack a hat. My premise is confirmed.
- Even in the 1890’s, a catch phrase was critical. Will and Epstein’s slogan was “Nothing in my pocket but a handful of hope”. That’s a handful of hope? I thought you were just glad to see me.
- When in doubt, cut to the aerial shot of the majestic mountains. We’re constantly reminded of the fact that it’s another place in time where men were men and sled dogs were scared, but in case anyone loses track of the locale, every tenth shot or so is a breathtaking view of the rugged mountains. Did I see a ski trail in the background just then?
- An avalanche is a minor inconvenience. Following a massive avalanche which killed dozens of conga liners on the mountain, Will emerges from behind a boulder and shouts at the top of his lungs for Epstein, but no one answers. He walks a few feet down the hill, grabs a boot or something and pulls his friend from what would have been a snowy grave. In the next scene, Will and Epstein have miraculously also located their sled. Apparently having people and belongings buried under a sea of snow coursing violently down a mountainside doesn’t make stuff hard to find afterwards.
- “Real stuff” is captivating. Every time this massive dud came back from commercial there was a message on the bottom of the screen which said “Based on actual events”. Since something happened in the Yukon over a hundred years ago, today’s TV viewers will just have to accept that real events sometimes result in implausible dialogue, giant holes in plots and men without hats.
You can rest assured, I learned tons more worthless stuff during the remaining 5 1/2 dreadful hours of this turkey. Such lessons included how dangerous it can be to dance on thin ice while holding a sack of heavy gold bars. I also learned that whenever a story needs to get philosophical, you can suddenly switch out the regular narrator for a Native American or other indigenous person who can shed light on the foolish greedy ways of the outsiders. Most importantly, I learned how not to waste 6 hours of my life again watching a really sad example of bad TV.