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'Sarah Palin's Alaska' Is Unsatisfying for Both Reality and Nature Fans

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 15th 2010 12:10PM
Sarah Palin learns to rope climb in 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' on TLCBecause Sarah Palin is an executive producer of her new TLC reality show, 'Sarah Palin's Alaska,' viewers had to know going in that she was going to have editorial control of what we saw of her home and family life. What did that mean? No salaciousness, no controversies, and likely no sight of Levi Johnston.

No, what we were going to mostly see were cute vignettes of life in the Palin household interspersed with the former governor and her family "discovering" the natural wonders of their home state, complete with sweeping vistas and shots of the Palins saying "wow" a lot.

That's pretty much what we got with last night's premiere episode of the show, which runs for 8 weeks. The problem is that the show really is neither fish nor fowl, pun intended: it's a boring reality show that's not spectacular enough as a nature show to make up the difference.

If you've ever looked at the descriptions of TLC's reality show episodes on your on-screen guide, you've likely noticed that most of them are pretty mundane. "Jen searches websites for a playmate for her dog while Bill does chores around rhe house" was the description for a recent episode of 'The Little Couple,' for instance.

Mundane situations for these shows are fine, because the curiosity is in how the show's subjects live their everyday lives: how does the Cake Boss manage to build a football stadium cake, how do the Sister Wives deal with a birthday party, how does Kate deal with bringing her kids to the zoo while wearing a halter top, and so on.

But we know too much about the Palins, as it were. There's the Bristol / Levi saga and the constant stories that Todd and Sarah aren't the happy couple they project to be, not to mention the general divisiveness the former vice presidential candidate generates. We don't care to see them make dinner or see Todd and Sarah shoot a segment for 'The O'Reilly Factor' or do the same mundane things their fellow TLC schedule-mates do.

Sure, it's cute to see nine year-old Piper get her mother's attention by calling her "Sarah," and you let out a knowing chuckle when Sarah bans 16 year-old Willow's guy friend from going up to her room (a rule they may not have had with Levi and Bristol). And it's not like viewers are looking for 'Real Housewives'-level conflict. But a little more honesty and reality about what's really going on in the Palins' lives would make for a more interesting show.

The episode does delve into a little bit of the hubbub that constantly swirls around the Palins, in the blurred-out and unnamed presence of Joe McGinniss. He's the writer who, while working on a book about the Palins, decided to rent the house next to them for the summer. Sarah and the family point to his presence out on his balcony more than once, where we see McGinniss out on his deck, reading the same paper on two different occasions. A little bit of creative editing? Perhaps. But I'd probably be a little concerned about his presence, too, if I thought he was writing a "hit piece" about my family, as Sarah puts it.

So, 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' isn't going to be salacious. That would be fine if the nature part was more interesting. With Mark Burnett of 'Survivor' fame as Palin's fellow executive producer, you expect that the visuals are going to be better than your average reality show, and they are.

But if a viewer wants to get lingering hi-def shots of the Alaskan wilderness, and examine what happens when a mama brown bear defends her cubs, they can watch any number of specials on PBS, Discovery, or Nat Geo. Watching the suspiciously coiffed and made-up Sarah Palin reacting to the bear fight, or making sure she doesn't fall down a crevasse in a glacier might be interesting in episode one, but will probably get old by episode eight.

Perhaps the action will ratchet up a bit as we go along. Next week's episode promises a scene where Bristol asks her mother to take her "prom hair" and go away. But because Palin's in the driver's seat for this show, it'll probably be what the first episode was: inoffensive and mildly entertaining. That's fine if they were little people making chocolate, but not so fine for the Palins.

What did you think of the premiere of 'Sarah Palin's Alaska?'

'Sara Palin's Alaska' airs Sundays at 9PM ET on TLC.

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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No salaciousness, no controversies, and likely no sight of Levi Johnston. Do you not find it alarming that you know about Palin than you do Obama? Do you think if a birth certificate could not be found for Palin the press would not beating down her door to challenge her citizenship. Even the governor of his state cannot find that document. But then there is Levi Johnston and that is real news. "Oh what power the gift to give us, to see ourselves as others see us."
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

January 23 2011 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Joel, You ask, would I watch the SECOND in the series? I am ashamed of giving the Station fifteen minutes of my much more valuable time...I hadn't realized that one could SELL her/his political campaign under the guise of of a nature study!

November 16 2010 at 3:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

joel keller is a demo, palin hater

November 16 2010 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to arrowman's comment
Joel Keller

I'm reviewing it as a TV show, pure and simple. I really didn't look at it from a political perspective at all.

November 16 2010 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My family and I watched the episode Sunday and liked it so much we watched it again tonight. Thank you TLC for providing families (who are still families) with good enjoyable family entertainment. We are DVRing all episodes. I guess I just don't understand why the liberal media detests anything that is wholesome. Now if we had some profanity sex and homosexuality in the show they'd love it... so consider the source when you read their critiques of the show. Thanks Sarah - we love you!!!

November 15 2010 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to d.demro's comment

You mean, like the premarital sex Bristol had with Levi? Seriously, get over yourself.

November 18 2010 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the Palins have become America's Whore-Masters--unfortunately, it's what we deserve!

November 15 2010 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm enjoying it. The family is well-known so it's fun to watch their interactions. The scenery is terrific and I'm glad to learn more about our largest state.

What I don't understand is the absolute animosity. When nearly 40% of all children born in this country are out-of-wedlock, why the venomous remarks about Bristol? Even on the Dancing with the Stars reviews, the comments are so vicious.

I can only blame it on the fact that, by-and-large, people feel they can say anything they like behind the anonymity of the computer screen. Put them face-to-face and I'm sure they would become total cowards.

November 15 2010 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tawny Jones

'Sarah Palin's Alaska' is quite satisfying to Sarah's fans & followers, who number in the millions. That's what matters.

November 15 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I didn't watch for one simple reason. I saw a commercial for the show. Palin was complaining about the author who is renting next door. How intrusive it was, but I'm sorry you have a tv crew following you around! You cannot complain about a person who has broken no laws writing a book about you if you A) Placed yourself in the public eye [you did run for numerous public office positions]
B) Invite the media into your life on a daily basis [twitter, facebook, Fox News, your reality tv show]
C)Put your children on the national stage and on tv.

November 15 2010 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

you heard it here folks, sarah palin, unsatisfying for people who like reality.

November 15 2010 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Johnny Bench

Sarah, er Jason, why so defensive?

November 15 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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