Review: Sarah Palin’s Alaska is “Special,” Just Like Her Family


The average American Sunday of many is something like: brunch, nap, football. This Sunday, however, might look a bit different, because now Sarah Palin might cross your channel-flipping path, hunting wild animals to kill in cold blood while she balances life as an Alaskan-Mom-slash-political-figure. Different is a vast understatement.

In the first episode of TLC’s latest creation, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” an eight-part series by producer Mark Burnett (Survivor), Palin and her husband T-Pain (“Todd”) bring daughter Piper and niece McKinley on a salmon fishing expedition into the wilderness– the audience’s first portrait of Palin’s life as an Alaskan and what Matt Gagnon, editor of the show’s political blog (one of five blogs TLC has created for the show), considers to be the focus. Discussing this topic, he states:

“…We are clear about a couple of things.

1) The show has nothing at all to do with the 2012 Presidential campaign and when you watch this Sunday night you will see that for yourself.

2) Liberals and conservatives both get plenty of things wrong all the time – I would be careful not to throw any rocks in another person’s greenhouse.

3) Alaska is/would be an awesome place to visit/live.”

While he does mention the obvious (Sarah Palin is a political figure), he fails to recognize the even-more obvious: everything Palin does as a potential political candidate is inherently political.

From the start of the show Palin is immersed in mom-mode, discussing the close relationship she has with both her children and husband while maintaining a certain sense of partiality towards “traditional” ideals. During the fishing expedition, Palin’s husband makes the first catch, at which time Palin herself exclaims:

“He’s bringing home the bacon, that’s the way it should be!”

Sure, it’s who she is, it’s what she stands for. Yet the political undertone is obvious, and by striving to bury this aspect beneath an ulterior motive — “Alaska’s great wilderness” — TLC has created quite a conundrum for itself, failing to nail down a particular audience.

At a press event, an “accidental slip” revealed that, within the first few episodes, there’s a run-in with Joe McGinniss, Palin’s new neighbor and the author of her unauthorized biography. The show’s immediately caught in the middle of an awkward dispute between the supposedly staged, the probably staged, and reality. It is, if anything, a typical extension of the overall Palin narrative, and an atypical — but not surprising — extension of the reality television one, too.