“Sarah Palin’s Alaska” Breaks TLC Ratings Record

No need for a Palin watch when you can’t remember a day that didn’t feature her on TV.  

And if you think you can get away by turning off the news channels, think again: her new series on TLC, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, or SPA, drew in over five million viewers during its season premiere “Mama Grizzly” Sunday night, making it the biggest premiere in the channel’s history.  Sadly, no Jack London quotes or John Denver songs were included in the broadcast.  Here’s a preview:

That the premiere was so huge shouldn’t really surprise anyone, mostly because it followed one of TLC’s biggest marketing campaigns.  One online ad even poked fun at Tina Fey and SNL: “I can see ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ from my living room.”  TLC is also launching an interactive website called Spalaska with five blogs, including the “‘We Can All Agree to Watch’ Official Guide”, which features tips on how to throw a SPA-themed party “to help people with different political perspectives come together and share the ultimate television watching experience.”  

And if you can’t agree?  Well, that’s what following Sarah Palin on Twitter is for, as you binge on “Savory Blue Chips (with ‘Green Party’ Guacamole), Red Hot Right Wings, Pork Barrel Tenderloin, and Red State Beans and Rice.”  Just don’t forget to wash all that down with, “I Can See White Russians from My House.”

Does this mean a Sarah Palin marathon will be airing at the same time as the Super Bowl?

Loosely referred to as a reality show, SPA really reads more like a travelogue.  “We define the show as a docu-series,” said Discovery Communications senior vice president of communications Laurie Goldberg, “because it’s a documentary series about Alaska, and Palin’s relationship with it.”  Like the scene where Palin urged for “respect for the elements” while riding a speedboat in a bright yellow parka.  The same woman who brags about hunting moose and shooting wolves while campaigning for more oil drilling in Alaska.  I’d say Sarah Palin’s relationship with Alaska is about as rigged as Bristol Palin beating out Brandy in Dancing with the Stars.  Perhaps this docu-series is more reality TV after all.

The New York Times called the show “wholesome, visually breathtaking and a little dull.  In a way it’s like ‘The Sound of Music’ but without the romance, the Nazis or the music.”  Or the intellect.  It shows a different side of Sarah Palin from the usual Tea Party-campaigning, takeback-America-shrieking wanna-be politician who could stand to improve her image by researching before talking.  Here, we see Palin at her best, that is, as an outdoorswoman in what The New York Times calls, “A nature series for political voyeurs: viewers get to observe Ms. Palin observing nature.”  The show mostly documents her having fun in nature — rafting, kayaking, climbing, even fishing.  After one unsuccessful fishing trip, she turns to the camera and says, “A poor day of fishing beats even a great day of work.”

No publicity stunt like this can resist injecting splessons, or Palin’s political nuggets of wisdom, like the scene where she shows the tall fence she and her husband put up while she was writing her memoir to protect themselves from their new next-door neighbor, journalist Joe McGinniss and his unauthorized Sarah Palin biography.  She offers the experience up as an analogy for borderland security: “I thought that was a good example, what we just did.  Others could look at it and say, ‘Oh, this is what we need to do to secure our nation’s border.’”

The real excitement of the show was what happened offscreen.  One of the highlights of SPA’s premiere consisted of a family fishing trip to Wolverine Creek, which is also a popular fishing spot for brown bears because access to fish is so easy.  For the record, no actual grizzlies were seen during the filming of “Mama Grizzly.”  Unfortunately, Wolverine Creek’s brown bears are widely seen as tourist spectacles rather than wildlife habitants.  According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, you’re not allowed to fish within 30 feet of a bear.  Footage from the scene shows the Palin family a little too close for comfort to brown bears, and she didn’t care.  “She is encouraging the violation of important guidelines that allows tourism to flourish in Alaska,” said Alaska Wildlife Alliance director John Toppenberg.  “She is inviting future problems with the tourism industry and, in particular, the bear-viewing industry.”  The Wildlife Conservation Division said that according to the shots, it wasn’t clear if Palin’s boat really was within 30 feet of bears, which provided no concrete evidence to suggest she violated any guidelines. 

However, leave it to Sarah Palin to sensationalize anything for the sake of drama.  Later in the episode, she dramatically told the story: “So I’m thinking we are going to get stuck there, the anchor is dropped and there is a bear coming toward us.” 

Sarah Palin — she’ll wrangle a Democrat like she can fight off a bear.  Not so much.  Wolverine Creek is a hot tourist spot, which means the bears are not only more tolerant of humans than bears in other areas, they also know better than to approach two-legged visitors and their boats.  But props, Sarah, for trying to look brave.  Something tells me if you were really in any grave danger, the cameraman would be swimming to shore instead of filming you get mauled by a bear.

Which harkens back to the lack of authenticity that any “documented” TV show has when shooting and editing discretion are involved.  Travelesque as the cinematography is, it’s important to remember that series is shot like a reality show, as in staged.  “No matter what spin Palin might try to put on her wild-and-crazy adventures in Alaska for TLC, you can rest assured they are wild and crazy in a purely Hollywood sense: No political superstars were killed or injured in the making of this movie,” wrote The Alaska Dispatch.

Really, the show should be renamed Real Housewife of Alaska, because that’s exactly how it depicts Palin: a shrill, melodramatic hypocrite who proudly states at the dinner tables that her husband “brings home the bacon” and interacts with her surroundings by exploiting it in extravagant ways that the average American has no way of affording. 

Nevertheless, it’s a brilliant political move if Palin continues to court the 2012 presidential candidacy, because it sets her up as Sarah Palin the person as opposed to Sarah Palin the politician.  A Gallup poll released two days before  SPA’s premiere showed that 40% of the surveyed Americans have a favorable view of Palin, while 51% do not.  She also doesn’t appeal to 81% of the country’s democrats, and 53% of the independents aren’t sure about her either. TLC is playing makeover artist for the GOP and a woman who’s getting paid for her political airtime.  What Not to Wear?  How about What Not to Shoot?  

When Sarah Palin the presidential candidate steps in, viewers will remember the show, and she may get more support for her TV image as opposed to her political platforms.  As the LA Times suggested, it “sets a new standard for political ads.”  Just wait for her next series – Sarah and Me Plus a Cup of Tea.


More from Care2:

Sarah Palin’s Alaska, Not Welcoming for Wildlife

Photo courtesy of Roger H. Goun via Flickr


Matt Kovalski
Matt Kovalski7 years ago

Please if you see this comment protest on Discovery's website under TLC, email or phoning in will help. We can not allow a women who has sponsored massacring of innocent wolves while governor to have her own tv show. This sends an awful, incompassionate, sadistic message to society

Deb R.
Past Member 7 years ago

SP: watch her for the comic relief

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

Palin is just like so many other untalented people who want to be famous. Yes, she's marketed herself since being the V.P. nominee (unbelievable!), but really, when you listen to her, she is so self-serving and mean-spirited, it's a wonder to me that some people look up to her. It's a sad America when "reality" t.v. and self-promoting shows are the staple of t.v. Pathetic that people watch that crap instead of actively doing something themselves or reading a good book or having a conversation. America is going down the tubes. I say this with sadness, but it seems that few want to be real citizens or smart, educated people.

Rosemary Mchugh
Rosemary Mchugh7 years ago

"Sarah Palin needs to be shot."

Preferably from a helicopter.

Arthur Killings
Arthur Killings7 years ago

Sarah Palin needs to be shot.

Rosemary Mchugh
Rosemary Mchugh7 years ago

"What IS relevant is Sarah Palin's inability to form a correct, factual sentence on her own, her lack of leadership skills, her unsuitability as a representative of the State of Alaska, and by comparison to every other possible candidate for President, she's at the bottom of the list. I'd vote for Porky Pig before I'd vote for her!"

I cannot currently send a star to Diane because I have done so within the last week.

Diane L.
Diane L7 years ago

Michael, I agree with you about BOTH Clintons...........Bill has a very sharp and quick wit, and yes, Hillary's "cold", but she's had to be. I've read some of her comments from an interview on an Australian radio talk show & she's actually very witty herself. It's all unrelated to the discussion HERE and that's all I was getting at (I know, lousy grammar). What IS relevant is Sarah Palin's inability to form a correct, factual sentence on her own, her lack of leadership skills, her unsuitability as a representative of the State of Alaska, and by comparison to every other possible candidate for President, she's at the bottom of the list. I'd vote for Porky Pig before I'd vote for her!

As I said, I DO appreciate your sense of humor, but don't respect the Obama "bashing" when it's off-topic, as it is in THIS discussion. I agree with you a bit about his being a bit naive, and possibly, and I do mean POSSIBLY INEXPERIENCED, but Palin is even more so. She was mayor of a town not much bigger than where I live (referring to Wasilla)and quit halfway thru her term as Governor of the state, amidst certain charges of improprieties and mishandling of public funds.

Rosemary Mchugh
Rosemary Mchugh7 years ago

"No, I change the channel whenever the TV pops her up. That she wants to rape the land she claims to love is no surprise, she's already slaughtering the wildlife she claims to love."

Careful Mary, you naughty left liberal, you'll upset Pauly's delicate sensibilities, he just might come around and pee in your Wheaties! ;-)

Rosemary Mchugh
Rosemary Mchugh7 years ago

Ah. Yes. Paul B. The person who approives of stamping on the heads of defenceless women and whose approach to "debate" consists of frothing rantings about "liberals" and "the left". Need I say more? Well yes actually my wise old Irish mammy advisede me against engaging in battles of wits with unarmed opponents for fear that others might accuse me of bullying.

Paul B.
7 years ago

Rosemary... did someone piss in your wheaties this morning? WOW, such hatred from a person who is obvious a compassionate liberal. Your art for spewing garbage is surpassed only by your ignorance and intolerance. I could debate every point you so eloquently made, but it would be totally wasted on you. If you don't like her, just ignore her. It really is that simple. There is no need for you to "share" your personal problems with the rest of us. Talk about the intolerance of the left. Another GREAT example.
Do you think any of what you said makes you better than anyone you slammed just because they hold a different opinion? You do your progressive movement a great deal of good when you show your ass that way. I bet they are so proud of you. Was that your intent? Does that make you happy? I can think of no other reason for that rant than to be accepted by your peers... that you are enlightened like they are. WOW, you need to get some help for this affliction.