Mountain Men is roughly a quarter of the way through its third season and continues to surprise critics with its popularity. The second season averaged between 3 and 3.5 million viewers per episode.
What makes this remarkable is the incredibly repetitive nature of the show. The mountain men give voice-overs where they discuss the inevitable difficulties of living off the land as well as the dangers they face. The camera then moves to B-roll of beautiful landscapes. Predictably, a challenge arises and the characters must overcome it, until next week at least. There is almost no variation from this pattern, and yet the show remains quite popular. Why?
There are two reasons for Mountain Men's success. First, it isn’t critically acclaimed shows that garner the highest ratings; even my favorite Mad Men gets crushed by formulaic (and entertaining) shows like The Big Bang Theory. These programs are popular because parents and families know what they are going to get. They can tune in and tune out because each episode is a self-contained story arc. Mountain Men is no different.