Archive for December, 2010

Sarah Palin is God’s gift to a TV columnist

December 12, 2010

LOCKED AND LOADED: The TLC reality star stalks her prey in the infamous caribou-hunting episode of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska.’ Photo: Gilles Mingasson


NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2010 — By popular demand!  YOU asked for it, and here it is: All in one place — the entire archive of my posts for “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” the most talked-about series on TV this season:

Finale recap: Shocking cliffhanger ending for ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ leaves key questions unanswered

Two questions remained unanswered as “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” came to an end Sunday night on TLC: Will the show ever have a second season?  And, will Sarah Palin run for president in 2012?

The first question on a followup season was not addressed at all, but the second one – about Palin’s presidential aspirations (if any) – was teased throughout the second hour of Sunday’s two-hour finale, with Sarah being asked by an Anchorage morning radio personality if she’ll run in 2012.  You saw her on a cellphone being asked the question in several “teases” during the show designed to keep you tuned in until the end, at which time Sarah gave a disappointing non-answer.

“It’s still an unanswered question,” she said, evading it completely.  She did promise that if she ever announces that she’s running, she’ll announce it first on this Anchorage morning show – apparently the “The Bob and Mark Show” on KWHL-FM, “K-Whale.”

There are those who believe that the decision to produce a second season of her TV show and the decision to launch a campaign for president are mutually exclusive – that Palin can’t possibly say yes to both.  One pundit, writing on, believes a second season of her TV show “would prevent a serious campaign from materializing.”   He also writes that production on her show would be “inconvenient” because it would disrupt her ability to travel the country making stump speeches.

We happen to disagree.  If Sarah Palin wanted to do a second season of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” the shows could be produced this coming summer, with plenty of time left over for Palin to dive into campaigning for 2012.  After all, candidates crave exposure on TV, especially TV they can control.  A prime-time TV show like this is a rare opportunity for a political candidate.  We happen to think she’d be crazy not to give a second season a go.

Meanwhile, what happened on the final night of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”?  Nothing too unusual, especially for those of us who stuck with this weekly Alaska travelogue through the preceding seven episodes.  There was more prospecting for gold (something we’d already seen a couple of episodes ago) – this time on a beach on the Bering Sea.  And there were more encounters with animals, both wild and domesticated (musk ox, reindeer, a moose) – though none of them lost their lives.

Indeed, affection took the place of violence in these meetings between Palin and beast, though Sarah declined to participate in the Alaskan pastime of “moose-kissing” (the name given to the mouth-to-mouth feeding of a banana to a domesticated moose).

Sarah and family went kayaking on a glacial lake, four-wheeling (again), and blueberry picking.  Throughout Sunday’s two hours (as she has throughout this entire series), Sarah repeatedly asserted how dangerous and risky these activities could be.  “Anything could go wrong at any time,” she stated more than once, when setting foot on a glacier or watching her brother prepare to dive for gold.  She makes it sound like she’s risking life and limb every time she steps outdoors, but nothing ever happened.

In Sunday’s second hour – a bonus episode, you might call it – Sarah and family reviewed some of the highlights of the season, from the controversial caribou hunt to the aborted camping trip with Kate Gosselin.  Sarah and her dad conceded the caribou hunt was “controversial,” but were dismissive of the criticism the hunt received after that episode aired.

Sarah and her family packed a lot of activities into nine hours of television.  The question is: If she comes back for another season, what is there left to show us about life in Sarah Palin’s Alaska?


Sarah boards the Nome mobile for a two-hour golden finale on TLC

It’s been nearly two weeks since we’ve seen “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” but on Sunday, America’s First Lady of the Tundra comes roaring back to TLC for a fun-filled two-hour finale of her rootin’, tootin’ reality series from the Alaska wilderness.

In the first half of Sunday night’s Palin double-header – starting at 8 p.m./7c – Sarah embarks on her own personal gold rush, trekking to Nome to pan for the alluring yellow ore.  It’s the second time in the eight-episode series that she’s gone a-prospectin’ – but, according to TLC, this time she’s hoping to collect enough of the yellow stuff to make her mom a glittering anniversary present.

Then, in search of more adventures in the wild, Sarah’s off to Valdez, where she’ll kayak on a glacier that is said to have once been part of the Great Alaskan Gold Route during the original gold rush of the 1890s.  How she’ll kayak on a glacier is anybody’s guess, which means we’ll all have to tune in to find out how it’s done.

As if all that wasn’t enough, TLC is tacking on a ninth hour at 9/8c.  Titled “Follow Me There” – after her show’s famed theme song of the same name by Georgia Christian rockers Third Day – this second hour is described as a “showcase [of] some of the best scenes from the series and [will] feature never-before-seen moments.”

It sounds like a bonanza for the 3.3 million people on average who have followed “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” through seven incredible episodes as she’s fished, hunted, felled trees and camped with Kate Gosselin (or at least tried to!), all while maintaining a firm grip on her Blackberry.

It’s hard to believe that all the excitement generated by this unique, historic reality series will soon be over, unless TLC and Sarah – along with producer Mark Burnett – can get together on an agreement on a second season.  On that subject, TLC remains tight-lipped.

Stay tuned!


Sarah Palin saw some bears and didn’t even shoot them!

Sarah Palin saw some wild animals and didn’t even shoot them.  That was just one of the highlights of Sunday night’s episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on TLC.

They were Kodiak bears, and Sarah, husband Todd and their eye-rolling 16-year-old daughter, Willow, went to observe them frolicking in the water from the safety of a hillside on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.   Despite the fact that these bears appeared to pose no threat whatsoever, nervous Sarah expressed concern that none of their party was armed, though their guide assured her he was equipped with some sort of “bear spray.”

Elsewhere in the episode, the three Palins spent a couple of days in a remote logging camp, played “Eskimo bingo” (it’s a regular bingo game but played under a time limit imposed by a 10-minute timer), and went to a stock-car track in Kodiak.  The episode was so rural in character you half expected Sarah to start drinking moonshine from one of those jugs with a cork stopper and “XXX” written on the side of it.

A few other things we observed on this, the seventh episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” (the eighth and final episode airs Sunday, Jan. 9, skipping Jan. 2):

Sarah’s a little thin-skinned: She twice went on the defensive in the face of criticism.  The first was the attention paid to her coining of the word “refudiate” in a Tweet she posted at around the time this episode was being filmed.  She first defended it as just a typo (substituting the “f” for a “p” by accident), and then quipped that it was her contribution to the evolution of the English language.  (And she seemed to coin a new word in Sunday night’s show, when she tried to say the word “genuine” and it came out like “genu-waiian,” like a combination of “genuine” and “Hawaiian.”)  She also attacked those who criticize her for supporting the Alaska timber industry.  “They write me these nasty letters using their pretty little pencils on their pretty little stationery!” she said.  “Where do you think your pencil and your paper come from, people?”

Alaska’s a little threadbare: Has anyone else noticed this?  Sure, the natural scenery of Alaska is vast and it certainly is beautiful, but when you watch “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” closely, you get the impression that Alaska is a backward state where all the houses are built of rough, weathered plywood and all the roads are dirt.

Manly yes, but Sarah likes it too: This week’s manly pursuits undertaken by Sarah included cutting down trees with a chainsaw and also operating a crane-like “shovel logger” with which she lifted and loaded one of the great logs on a flatbed truck.

Mama Grizzly and her cub: Throughout the episode, Sarah harped on her efforts to engage daughter Willow’s attention in the outdoors activities Sarah loves, but Willow paid more attention to checking texts on her cellphone.  Eventually, Sarah persuaded Willow to help the logging camp’s cook prepare lunch and Willow was seen half-heartedly chopping lettuce.  Well, you would have thought Willow had brought home a straight-A report card from the way Sarah cheered over this lettuce-chopping breakthrough.

And now, just one more episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” is left, unless Sarah and TLC can get together on a deal for a second season.  We’ve loved covering this show so much that it should go without saying that second season has our vote.  What about you?


Oprah likes Sarah’s show, but as president?  Oprah thinks not!

Oprah Winfrey thinks Sarah Palin is “very likable,” but when it comes to Palin’s possible presidential aspirations, Oprah loses her attraction to the lightning-rod ex-governor of Alaska.

That’s the interpretation you can make after reading an interview with Oprah in Parade magazine this Sunday.  She’s on the cover – part of her current publicity campaign in advance of the launch of her new cable channel, OWN, on New Year’s Day.

Asked what she thinks generally of Palin, Oprah was upbeat.  “I don’t know her, so I can’t speak to [whether or not she’ll be a candidate],” said Oprah, who then offered a rave review of Palin’s show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” (though it bears mentioning that Palin’s network, TLC, is owned by Discovery Networks, the same company that’s partnering with Oprah for the launch of OWN).  “I would say that America’s going to fall in love with her [after watching “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”].  When I saw that first episode, I went, ‘Whoa! She is charming and very likable’.”

However, Oprah’s attitude toward Palin changed when Oprah was asked if the thought of Palin running for president “scared her.”  In her answer, Oprah revealed that she’s not keen on the prospect of a Palin presidency.  Her answer also implied that she doesn’t think too highly of those who would vote for Palin either.  Said Oprah of a Palin presidential run, “It does not scare me because I believe in the intelligence of the American public.”

Well.  Oprah evidently believes intelligent people won’t support Palin.  What do you think?


‘Alaska’ Week 7 Preview: No trees are safe as ‘Chainsaw’ Sarah escalates her war on nature

Look out, trees!  Here comes Sarah Palin and she’s got a chainsaw!

It’s all in pursuit of new adventures in Alaska as the ex-gov and husband Todd pay a visit to a logging camp this Sunday night on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” (9/8c on TLC).

TLC offers a small sample of the action in a new preview clip posted on its Web site.  “This really could be potentially deadly work I’m engaged in,” says Sarah, who dons a yellow hard hat and Day-Glo orange vest for this “deadly” work.  Yeah – deadly for the trees!

Look, in much the same way that we all comprehend that animals such as cattle, pigs and chickens must die in order for us to have food, we also understand that the commercial logging industry must fell trees if we are to have paper and all the other products made from them.  Still, when thinking about “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” one can’t help but wonder why nearly every episode of this show has to have Sarah mounting some sort of an assault on the natural world – clubbing halibut, netting salmon, fatally shooting a caribou, cutting down trees.  Can’t she just go and merely look at all the nature for a change without harming any of it?

This weekend’s episode is the series’ seventh of eight, with the final episode scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 9 – a special two-hour finale starting at 8/7c on TLC.   And that means this much talked-about series is almost over.  However, it’s doing well enough in the ratings – averaging 3.3 million viewers each week after six episodes – that there’s talk now of a possible second season, though TLC’s reps all say that’s premature. churned up rumors the other day that negotiations are under way between Palin and TLC, with Palin looking for a significant raise.  Reports peg her fee for Season One at $250,000 per episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” but that figure might be as reliable as the story that she’s negotiating for Season Two.  The rumors were flatly denied the other day by a rep for Palin, Rebecca Mansour, who Tweeted: “Rule of thumb: anything ‘PopEater’ reports about Sarah Palin is completely made up – as in fabricated out of thin air.”  Ouch.

Still, based on the ratings and all the buzz about the show, it stands to reason that TLC would be interested in pursuing a second season.  They’d be crazy not to.

If you ask us, a second season for “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” would be just fine.  As the first reality series to star a potential candidate for president, the show is historic.  And we’ve enjoyed writing about it and reading the reactions of the Fancast community.  So, how about it?  Should Sarah go for Season Two?


No first lady is gonna lecture Sarah Palin about dessert — No, sirree, Bob!

Recreation in the scenic wilds of Alaska took center stage Sunday on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

As the Palins trekked away from their Wasilla home for white-water rafting, back-country four-wheeling and Iditarod-style dog-sledding, viewers got to meet some colorful Alaskans.  These included a mullet-haired rafting guide named Mudflap and a wizened gold prospector named Bones.

We also got to hear Sarah’s views on a number of issues, including child-rearing, abortion, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to rein in childhood obesity.  Sarah raised the abortion issue in a comment about her young son, Trig.

“People are jerks about Trig being born with Down syndrome,” she said.  “Eighty-five to 90 percent of babies are aborted with Down syndrome.  They can have their opinion, but we have ours.”  She never explained who these “jerks” were who bad-mouthed her son, or what they said about him.

She later took a shot at unnamed “idiots and bloggers” who apparently bedevil the Palins with their on-line commentary.  “It’s nice to get the heck away from idiots and bloggers who do not like our family,” Sarah said, before she mounted an ATV for some wet-and-wild careening down muddy dirt roads toward the mining camp where Bones lived (sadly, he died since the making of Sunday’s episode).  “Four-wheeling is freedom,” Sarah declared.

And Michelle Obama’s name came up as Sarah looked inside a cupboard in her family’s bus-sized RV in search of ingredients to make s’mores.  “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert,” Sarah said.  Look, we all know Sarah Palin differs politically with President Obama.  But you wonder at moments like these why Palin chooses to mount an attack such as this, on a first lady who is speaking out in favor of juvenile health.  Aren’t we all in favor of that?

After six weeks, it’s become apparent that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” can be viewed, at least in part, as a kind of “authorized biography” of Sarah Palin in which she controls the narrative.  Each week, she reveals aspects of her personal history, such as this past Sunday’s recounting of how she met her husband Todd in the gym at Wasilla High School when they were teens.  She also told how she worked her way through college by waitressing – a story of self-reliance and independence that plays into the image she wishes to project in her political life.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – indeed, Palin is shrewdly getting everything she can out of this free weekly hour of prime-time television in which she gets to showcase herself and her family.

This past Sunday, she was just like any other mother of a 16-year-old when she wrestled with daughter Willow over whether her boyfriend could join the family on an overnight camping trip.  Sarah eventually said yes, but only if the boy pitched in with chores.

“We give our kids a lot of freedom because we trust our kids,” Sarah said at one point, instantly causing a viewer to think of the freedom she granted to daughter Bristol and boyfriend Levi Johnston a few years back when Bristol was 16 and she became pregnant.   “We’ve all made mistakes,” said Sarah (who never mentioned Bristol by name).  “I feel sorry for my kids because some of their mistakes are played out on the front page of the National Enquirer, which really sucks for them.”

Unfortunately, that kind of exposure is the price one pays for choosing to live a public life, as Sarah Palin has done in agreeing to star, along with her family, in her own TV show.


Sarah takes aim at Aaron Sorkin as she shoots from the lip

Sarah Palin finally responded publicly Friday to “West Wing” producer Aaron Sorkin’s harsh criticism of her televised takedown of a caribou earlier this month on her TLC series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Palin called Sorkin’s comments about her “appalling” right after she claimed she didn’t know his first name was Aaron.  “Is his name Alan?  I’ve been calling him Alan,” she said with a smile in an interview conducted at her home in Wasilla, Alaska, by Robin Roberts.  Their chat was seen on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in three parts Friday morning.

In a blog post for earlier this month, Sorkin nicknamed Palin “Cruella,” called her a “phony pioneer girl” and said the caribou-hunting episode of her show was a “snuff film.”

“His comment on [the show] I thought was pretty appalling,” Palin said.  “He suggested, ‘I could see her doing that if it were for fashion or if it were for . . .  something.’  And I’m like, ‘For fashion?  You mean go kill an animal just for the fur?’  I couldn’t believe that that came out of him.  I thought that certainly he wouldn’t be that hypocritical.”

Palin’s comment was an interpretation of this passage from Sorkin’s diatribe:  “I don’t watch snuff films and you make them,” he wrote.  “You weren’t killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion – you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals.”

The ex-governor of Alaska – whose TLC series will have its sixth episode (of eight) this Sunday night at 9/8c – was dismissive of criticism from Sorkin and others about her hunting expedition.  “We eat, therefore, we hunt and I am thankful that I get to feed my kids organic food,” she told Roberts, who nevertheless asked Palin if she thought she could have used a less-powerful rifle for the hunt, one that might have seemed more reasonable to the average, non-hunting TV viewer.  To which Palin replied: “We can’t bring down an animal with a BB gun.”

Curiously, Palin also took a shot at Sorkin by referring to what she perceives as the prevalence of gunplay in his TV shows and movies.  “I think he’s got some of those high-powered rifles in his movies and TV shows though and I think those are aimed at human beings,” she said.  “Mine is aimed at dinner.”

But a look at Sorkin’s list of credits on the Internet Movie Database ( – where his most recent credit is the Facebook movie “The Social Network,” which he wrote – reveals very few, if any, productions where action sequences involving guns would be prevalent.


Rough-and-ready Sarah proves she’s tougher than Kate Gosselin — Was there really any doubt?

No living creature on land or sea died in the making of Sunday night’s episode of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ as Sarah and family took Kate Gosselin and her eight children on a wet and wild camping trip.

It was a “first” for the former Alaska governor’s TLC reality series, which drew howls of protest a week earlier for its frank depiction of a hunting trip in which rough-and-ready Sarah fatally shot a caribou.  In previous episodes, she was seen hauling in halibut, which she clubbed to death, and salmon, which she participated in gutting and beheading.

In the episode Sunday night, however, you might say the only “victim” of Sarah’s lust for the great outdoors was Kate Gosselin, who crabbed continuously about the chilly, wet environment of the remote, riverbank campsite the Palins chose for their planned one-night stay.  Kate’s children didn’t seem to mind the adverse conditions, though, as they scurried about the site collecting rocks, attempting to fish (none were caught, a “reprieve” for the animal kingdom that is rare for this series), toasting marshmallows and taking in the flora and fauna under the tutelage of Sarah’s father, Chuck, and brother, Chuck Jr.

Meanwhile, Kate was seen huddled under a tarp shivering.  “Sorry I’m miserable,” she said, “but somebody’s gotta be.  . . .  This is cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Why would you pretend to be homeless?” she said at one point, revealing what she really thinks about camping out.

After a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs grilled outdoors (of course, these happened to be moose hot dogs, as if Alaskans have no access to regular franks), Kate decreed that it was time for the Gosselins to return to the dry, warm shelter of civilization and they decamped before getting a chance to sleep over.  That left only the Palins, who gathered around their roaring campfire and seemed to enjoy themselves even more after Kate left.  When it was time to turn in and the Palins were snug in their various tents, they were heard saying good-night to each other in such a way that you couldn’t help but be reminded of ‘The Waltons,’ which was probably the whole point.

Though no creatures were shot or clubbed, guns and dead animals remained front and center on ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska.’  Husband Todd told Kate Gosselin that the bearskin rug on his living room floor used to be a bear until it was killed by Sarah’s dad.  And Chuck Sr.’s house was like a museum of wildlife, with its animal skulls and stuffed animals.  There was even a sculptural stack of bleached antlers about 20 feet high in the backyard.

And though they never had to fire on any wildlife, nearly the entire first half of the one-hour episode was devoted to Sarah and Kate receiving instruction in how to defend their broods from bears, which were supposedly numerous in the area in which they were due to camp (though none were seen).

The anti-bear prep program included a trip to a gun shop (which Sarah called her father’s “second home”) and a lesson with an expert in bear defense who had the ladies firing various shotguns at bear targets.  Sarah loved this activity; predictably, Kate did not.

“Out in this territory, anything can happen, but it’s nothing my shotgun can’t handle,” said Sarah, sounding like some kind of Annie Oakley figure from the period in history in which “territories” preceded “states.”  (For the record, Alaska became a state – the 49th – in January 1959.)

Next week on ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ the Palins pack a ton of outdoor fun into one hour – racing ATVs, firing guns, whitewater rafting and “mushing” (that’s sledding with a team of dogs).   And now, there are only three episodes to go in ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska.’  Can you believe it’s almost over?


‘Cruella’ Sarah blasted by TV scribe Aaron Sorkin

TV and movie scribe Aaron Sorkin is taking aim and firing away at Sarah Palin for last Sunday’s episode of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ on TLC in which she hunted a caribou.

Sorkin – best known as the creator ‘The West Wing’ and, more recently, the screenwriter on the Facebook movie, ‘The Social Network’ – also blogs at, where he blasted Palin and her cable network.  He called Palin’s reality series “truly awful” and renamed TLC “the-Now-Hilariously-Titled Learning Channel.”

“Like 95 percent of the people I know, I don’t have a visceral problem eating meat or wearing a belt,” Sorkin wrote, in a blog post addressed directly to Palin.  “But like absolutely everybody I know, I don’t relish the idea of torturing animals.  I don’t enjoy the fact that they’re dead and . . .  if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn’t do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart.”

Sorkin was apparently inspired to write the piece when he got wind of the statement Palin issued Sunday hours before the hunting episode aired.  Anticipating the criticism she was likely to face after the show aired, she Tweeted: “Tonight’s hunting episode ‘controversial’?  Really? Unless you’ve never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather couch or eaten a piece of meat, save your condemnation.”

Sorkin called the statement “snotty” and labeled the show “a snuff film.”  “You enjoy killing animals,” he wrote accusingly, adding later, “That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.”  (Yes, he wrote “moose,” where earlier in the piece he wrote “caribou”; the change in nomenclature was not explained.)

For her part, Palin has not issued any statements in the aftermath of Sunday’s show, which was the most controversial to date of the four episodes – out of eight – of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ that have aired so far.  TLC had no comment on Sorkin’s criticism of the network.


Animal activists up in arms over Sarah’s caribou kill

A graphic hunting scene in ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ in which the firebrand former governor and vice presidential candidate was seen fatally shooting a caribou, is angering animal-rights groups.

The most vocal of them – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – was quick to issue a statement on Monday condemning the show, which aired Sunday night on TLC.  “Sarah seems to think that resorting to violence and blood and guts may lure people into watching her boring show,” said the statement from PETA Vice President Dan Mathews.  “But the ratings remain as dead as the poor animals she shoots.”

On the show – the fourth episode in the eight-part reality series – gung-ho Sarah explained that such hunts are a common method for putting up food for the winter that is essential for the survival of “most Alaskans.”

“Hunting is something most Alaskans do to fill their freezer with meat for the winter,” she said on her TLC reality series, before embarking on a two-day hunting expedition in the north of Alaska with her father, Chuck, and a family friend.  Really, Sarah?  “Most” Alaskans?  Meaning more than half of them?  Hey, maybe it’s true – it’s just a difficult concept to contemplate for those of us who live in the lower 48 where grocery stores are plentiful, well-stocked, conveniently located and open 24 hours.

Sarah even spoke in terms that must have sounded familiar to anthropologists and others who study primitive cultures.  Explaining why her husband, Todd, would not be joining her on this excursion, Sarah said, “This year, Todd and I split the hunting and gathering responsibilities.”  “Hunting and gathering”?   What is this – ‘The Flintstones’?

She even rationalized the hunt by informing viewers that the family meat supplies had dwindled down to only a handful of packages of “caribou sausage and moose pepperoni,” regional delicacies which must make for some interesting pizzas in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Wasilla.

And so, Sarah and company packed tents, sandwiches, guns and ammo into a tiny plane and took off for a remote camp to stalk caribou, which Sarah said number in the hundreds of thousands in Alaska’s wilderness.  Meanwhile, we viewers saw about three of them on this two-day hunt, two of which were fatally shot – the first by family friend Steve Becker and the second by Mama Rambo herself – Sarah – decked out in headband and camouflage.

In the show’s most controversial scene, we got to see Sarah get ready, aim and fire at a caribou, bagging the beast on her fifth shot (after switching to a more powerful rifle with a more accurate sight).  And unlike most of the hunting shows that have aired for years on various ESPN channels and the old Outdoor Life Network (among others), we got to witness the moment the animal got hit and then collapsed heavily on the ground.  In fact, the scene was preceded by a viewer advisory.

Standing around the lifeless animal, Sarah solemnly quoted one of America’s legendary outdoorsmen.  “In the words of Ted Nugent,” she said, “We thank that mighty animal for living a good life and now sustaining a nice family.”

We then got a close-up lesson in butchering in the field as the hunters set to the task of quartering the caribou and bundling the various cuts of meat for transport back to Wasilla.  There, on the Palins’ kitchen island, the pieces were trimmed and made ready for the freezer, but not before Steve Becker displayed the caribou’s heart for the edification of Sarah’s 9-year-old daughter, Piper.

To hear Sarah tell it, few pursuits in life are more enjoyable than a successful hunting trip.  Said she, “When you see that you have a successful hit, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”

With this past Sunday’s show, we’re now at the halfway point in the eight-part ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska.’  Next week, in Episode Five, Sarah goes out in the wild once again, this time in the company of fellow TLC reality star Kate Gosselin and her eight children.


Preview: Happy huntress Sarah craves caribou

The survival of Sarah Palin’s family hangs in the balance this Sunday on ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ when Sarah suits up like Rambo for a hunting trip 500 miles from her Alaska home in pursuit of caribou meat.

Actually, her family’s situation is not really all that dire – it just seems that way in this  clip on TLC’s Web site for this Sunday’s new episode.  In the clip, the former governor is seen taking an inventory of the family’s meat supply (five packages of moose and three of caribou) and concludes: “It’s time to go out there and go caribou huntin’!”  As Rachael Ray might exclaim: “Yummo!”

So Sarah takes rifle in hand and, accompanied by her father and a family friend, she goes out in search of caribou.  She’s even seen drawing a bead on her majestic prey while her Pa instructs her: “Go ahead, right in the neck.”

Though she would appear to have the drop on her unsuspecting target with her high-powered rifle and precision optics, Sarah nevertheless insists: “We don’t have the advantage, the animals have the advantage.”

Will Sarah bag herself a caribou and thus stave off starvation for her family?  That question isn’t answered in the clip, which means we’ll have to tune in Sunday night at 9/8c on TLC to find out.


Republican rival on Sarah: Her clubbing of halibut shows she’s not to be trifled with

Guess who’s been keeping up with ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’: It’s none other than Republican presidential hopeful – and possible Palin rival – Mitt Romney.

Romney, who campaigned for the Republican nomination in 2008 but wound up campaigning for John McCain and Sarah Palin, dropped a reference to Palin’s TLC reality series in a conversation with Jay Leno on ‘The Tonight Show’ Wednesday night on NBC.

The subject came up when Leno asked Romney, who was once governor of Massachusetts, to comment on Palin’s famous decision to quit as Alaska governor before her term was up.  “This is the one thing that I think really impedes Sarah Palin,” Leno said, “the fact that she quit as governor.  You were a governor of a state.  Could you ever see yourself quitting?”

“She had her reasons,” Romney said diplomatically.  “And by the way, if someone’s looking for me to say something negative about Sarah Palin, why that’s not going to come from me.  I mean, did you see what she did to the halibut the other night on her show?”

Romney was referring to the episode of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ on Nov. 21 in which Sarah and daughter Bristol were seen taking up billyclubs to bash in the heads of halibut that were struggling for survival on the deck of a commercial fishing boat.

Leno also asked the Republican Romney if he’s ever been offered a job on right-leaning Fox News Channel.  “A lot of republican candidates have gone to work for Fox News,” Leno said, referring to former and would-be candidates such as Palin and Mike Huckabee.  “Have they ever approached you as being a correspondent or something of that nature?” Jay asked.

“Jay,” Romney answered, “if you ever see me sign up for a gig on Fox News, it’ll be a clear indication I’ve decided to run for president!  So that’s not in the cards anytime soon.”

Romney and Leno also discussed the Obama administration (Romney called the president’s first two years a “failure”), the controversy over airport personal-search methods and the Republican agenda.

It seems that every time you turn on the TV set these days, somebody’s talking about Sarah Palin.  Who would you prefer for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 – Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin?


Sarah’s salmon surprise: Ratings rise for fishing show

Feisty Sarah Palin has defied the odds, as her TLC reality series took a jump up in the ratings this past Sunday after falling steeply the week before.

Last weekend, the third episode of the eight-part ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ attracted 3.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen figures released by TLC, rising from 3 million for Episode Two a week earlier.

The show’s premiere drew 4.96 million on Nov. 14 – the highest-rated series launch in the history of TLC.  But the numbers for Week Two represented a 40 percent loss of audience, leading many observers to conclude that the bloom had quickly come off the rose for Palin and her TV show.

But the modest increase in Week Three indicates that there’s life in ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ yet.  They’re not unheard-of, but such increases are unusual.  Generally speaking, ratings for TV shows that are just starting out don’t generally rise, fall and then rise again.  But that’s Sarah Palin for ya – she’s nothing if not surprising.

The episode set for this coming Sunday (9 p.m./8c on TLC) – titled ‘She’s a Great Shot’ – is bound to be talked about as Sarah takes rifle in hand and treks with her dad to a hunting ground near the Arctic Circle in search of caribou.  TLC’s description of the episode explains that “Sarah’s freezer is almost empty and winter is approaching.  [So] she embarks on an epic caribou hunting trip . . . in search of a caribou for food.”  We have to ask: Is that really Sarah Palin’s only option for obtaining sustenance?  Hey, Sarah, ever hear of a supermarket?

Meanwhile, a week later, on Dec. 12 – gunplay once again takes centerstage on ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ when TLC reality star Kate Gosselin (‘Kate Plus 8’) and her brood turn up in Alaska for a hunting trip and hospitable Sarah takes them to a “bear safety class for rifle practice.”

Now that’s an episode with the potential to boost ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ to new heights in the ratings.  Stay tuned!


Another Sarah Palin fish tale: This time, her victims are salmon

Our advice for fish: If you see any Palins approaching, swim the other way – fast!  As the last two episodes of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ demonstrate, encounters between fish and members of Sarah Palin’s family usually end fatally for the fish.

Look, many of us love to eat fresh halibut and salmon caught in the abundant waters of Alaska.  And we all know that someone somewhere has to catch, kill, gut and filet them so we can enjoy them.  Still, one can’t help noticing, and remarking on, the fact that this TLC series this past Sunday featured Sarah Palin and her relatives once again pulling vast quantities of fish from the sea and prepping them for consumption and for sale, as well as for a smokehouse, where strips of salmon were put up for winter.

This week’s fishing exercise – following the previous week’s voyage with a commercial halibut fisherman – involved capturing salmon in great nets stretched across an expanse of Alaska’s Bristol Bay.  Bristol Palin was named for the bay, Mama Sarah disclosed on the show.  It just so happens that Todd Palin, husband of the former governor of the state, enjoys the distinction of possessing the location that is said to be the best site on this bay that is home to the world’s most populous salmon run, according to Sarah.  No mention was made about whether the ex-governor helped Todd stake a claim to this site while she was still in office, but you had to wonder.

And so, thousands of pounds of salmon were caught, and the Palin family came together to clean and bone their catch.  It was all part of a July Fourth weekend celebration of daughter Willow’s 16th birthday, and she herself joined in the process of beheading the fish and yanking out the guts (she expressed particular interest in eyeballing the contents of one salmon’s stomach to see what it had eaten lately).

But the episode wasn’t all fish heads and fish guts.  Portions of the show had Sarah talking candidly, and tearing up, about her youngest son, Trig, born with Down syndrome.  She was especially touched when the family went to visit some cousins, and she got a chance to interact with Matthew, a cousin who also has Down syndrome.

Here were some other highlights from this, the third episode of eight of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’:

Rugged, frontier-like statement of the week: A week earlier, Sarah proved her Old West bonafides when she encouraged daughter Bristol during a skeet-shooting exercise with the phrase “Don’t retreat, just reload!”  This past Sunday, Sarah made a point about family loyalty when she said: “We circle the wagons when we have to!”  Yee-ha!

Sarah’s TV preferences, Part 2: A week ago, she revealed her taste for ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Deadliest Catch.’  This week, it was ‘Cheers,’ when she set sail in an Alaska lake where mail is apparently delivered by boats like the one she was in.  “I’m the Cliff Clavin of Alaska!” she declared, referring to the hapless Boston postman on ‘Cheers’ played by John Ratzenberger.  “Do you know who Cliff Clavin is?” she asked others in the boat, including daughter Piper, 9.  “No?” said Sarah, 46.  “Never mind!”

Fireworks in daylight?!  Unfortunately for Alaskans, that’s a fact of life on July Fourth, especially if you want to get to bed early.  On ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ the Palins were seen lighting fireworks by the water in what appeared to be broad daylight.  It was probably evening, though – last July Fourth, the sun didn’t set in those parts until 11:35 p.m.

The fish swimming in Alaska’s waters seem to get a reprieve in next week’s episode, as Sarah and her family turn their attention to hunting caribou, according to the preview seen at the end of the show.  All we can say to that is: Run, caribou, run!  The Palins are coming!  The Palins are coming!


Hapless halibut are no match for Sarah’s death blows

Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol did some mother-daughter bonding when they went clubbing together Sunday night on ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ – clubbing some fish to death, that is!

“We are just the average American family on the road,” said Mama Bear Sarah in the second episode of her new eight-part series on TLC that has become one of the most talked-about shows on TV.  “Average”?  Only if the “average” American family hits the road in a custom-built bus like they’re Dolly Parton.

The Palins – Sarah, hubby Todd, Willow, 16, Piper, 9, and, for the first time on the show, the family’s other superstar, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ phenom Bristol, 20, with 22-month-old Tripp – hopped on their bus for a 263-mile drive south from their home in Wasilla, Alaska, to the seaside town of Homer, Alaska’s halibut-fishing mecca.  There, the family set sail with a commercial fisherman to experience the harvesting of halibut first-hand.  “We’re going there just for the halibut!” joked fun-loving Sarah.

This included hauling the flopping fish out of the sea and then having Sarah and Bristol take turns “neutralizing” them with a knock on the noggin with a black billyclub about a foot or so long that looked like police riot gear.  Gung-ho Sarah explained it was “the most humane way to harvest these massive fish.”  The scene was preceded by a viewer warning.

What else did we learn about the Palins in this episode?  A couple of things:

The Sarah Palin Workout, Republican style: The former governer of Alaska was seen in an early morning trip to the gym wearing white ankle socks emblazoned with the GOP elephant logo.

Bristol’s ex-boyfriend, ol’ whatshisname: In referring to Bristol’s baby-daddy Levi Johnston and the tabloid scrutiny her daughter has had to endure ever since it was revealed during the 2008 presidential campaign that the teen was pregnant, Sarah couldn’t bring herself to mention Levi’s name.  The scrutiny, Sarah said, was “because of somebody she’d been associated with.”

Sarah’s rootin’ tootin’ baby shower: When she was pregnant with Piper, Sarah disclosed, Palin’s pals threw her a baby shower at a local trap-shooting range, which Sarah, Todd and Bristol visited on Sunday’s show for a family shootin’ match.

Sarah’s TV preferences: The former vice presidential candidate indicated she’s a fan of ‘Deadliest Catch’ when she was tasked to hurl a grappling hook into the water to snag a halibut line.  She said she learned how to do it from watching the Alaska-based crab-fishing show.  And we couldn’t believe our ears when Sarah let out a “‘Do’h!” in the manner of Homer Simpson when she said, “We’re goin’ to Homer – do’h!”  Sarah Palin a fan of ‘The Simpsons’?  Say, maybe she’s presidential timber after all!

How’d the episode do in the ratings?  TLC says we won’t have the audience numbers until Tuesday.

And now, there are only six episodes of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ left to go.  Truth be told, we wish they’d never end.


Sarah’s reality: Can this show propel her to the presidency?

Make no mistake: Sarah Palin’s TLC series most definitely qualifies as a “reality” show, whether she likes it or not.  But it’s also true that ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ takes reality TV to a new and previously unimagined level: It is the first reality show to serve as a possible springboard to the presidency of the United States.

For that reason, this show occupies a category all its own within the wide world of reality television.  It’s a reality show that plays like a program-length commercial – a bit like those productions we’re accustomed to seeing on TV in the final days of a presidential campaign when a candidate buys, say, a half-hour of prime-time TV to air a self-produced “portrait” special portraying him (or her) in the best possible light.

But the big difference between ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ and those other productions is this: Few of us watch those campaign specials, but nearly 5 million of us watched the premiere last Sunday of ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ on TLC (9 p.m./8c).  And that was only the first of eight full hours she’s getting to strut her stuff on prime-time TV.  And she’s not buying the time either – they’re paying her and throwing in the added benefit of heavily promoting the show to ensure that people watch it.

It’s the greatest opportunity ever taken up by a potential presidential candidate to promote his or her best personal attributes (though coy Sarah habitually avoids confirming or denying her interest in the presidency).  On ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ the ex-gov gets to craft an image of supreme likability in an environment she controls – her home – a place where she ceases to be the lightning rod personality who generates such strong opinions from supporters and opponents alike.

In the series premiere, she was tough and tender (you couldn’t miss the symbolism of the episode’s title, ‘Mama Grizzly’), a mom with five kids (‘Sarah Plus 5’) who juggled her professional life (preparing to be interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Channel via satellite from her home TV studio) with her responsibilities as Mama Bear.  In the episode, these duties included baking cupcakes with daughter Piper, 9, and preventing the teen boyfriend of daughter Willow, 16, from following Willow upstairs in the Palin home.  She even demonstrated that she’s capable of laughing at herself when she was seen sitting on a rock somewhere in the Alaska wilderness and joked: “You can see Russia from here – almost!”

When she isn’t padding around the house in bare feet, gym shorts and a light-gray, zippered hoodie – as she was this past Sunday – this 46-year-old “cool” mom with “prom hair” (as one of her daughters described it) is flying around Alaska with various family members fishing, shooting, paddling a canoe, rock-climbing and wielding a chainsaw.  They’re just “normal,” everyday activities for this typical mom.  “Today we’re going to have a blast!” she said on the show.  “After I get some of my work done, we’re taking the girls and we’re heading into bear country to do some salmon fishing!”

It all came across like a lot of fresh-air fun, and you can’t help but appreciate the Palins’ gung-ho attitude when it comes to gathering up the family for these far-flung outdoor activities.

But can ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ help this controversial figure craft the kind of image that will convert opponents into supporters?  Or more to the point, can this reality show help propel Sarah Palin into the White House?


Sarah’s lament: My TV show is invading my privacy!

It’s the ultimate paradox – a celebrity agrees to appear with her entire family on a TV series, and then gripes that her life isn’t private enough.

Sarah Palin makes this complaint on the very show in which she has agreed to star: ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ the eight-part series starting Sunday, Nov. 14, on TLC.

Huffington Post has a clip from the show in which Palin crabs about a journalist – author Joe McGinniss (“Fatal Vision,” “The Selling of the President”) – who has taken up residence next door to her lakeside Alaska home in order to do “research” for a Palin biography.

“Our behavior has certainly changed this summer because of this new neighbor,” Palin says.  “I think it is an intrusion, an invasion of our privacy and I don’t like it.  . . .  It’s just none of his flippin’ business.”

Adds husband Todd, “Our summer fun has kind of been taken away from us because of a new neighbor next door who is writing a hit piece on my wife. I mean life is about being productive but these people want to seek and destroy.”

Whether or not the Palins’ “summer fun” is curtailed remains debatable since the show itself is all about how much fun the family has in the wilds of Alaska – fishing, boating, rock-climbing, hiking on a glacier and other stuff.  On the other hand, the Palins have a point: There is a difference between being accosted by journalists when out in public, and having to endure a journalist who has moved next door for the express purpose of spying on you from an upstairs balcony.  In addition, it’s valid to question this author’s methods.  After all, thousands upon thousands of biographies have been researched and written successfully without their authors moving in next door to their subjects.

Still, the paradox is worth pondering every time a public figure who craves the limelight then turns around and complains that his or her privacy is being violated.  Sure, you can blame the violator (in this case, the journalist), but doesn’t some of the responsibility lie with the publicity-seeker?  Isn’t she the one who sought the limelight and brought her entire family with her?


Is Sarah out of touch with reality?  Answer: Yes

Is Sarah Palin out of touch with reality?  OK, that’s a cheeky, loaded question, but it’s really asking if the outspoken ex-governor of Alaska understands what we mean when we categorize a TV show as “reality TV.”

The question arises from her appearance this past weekend on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” in which Wallace asked her to respond to former Bush aide Karl Rove’s allegation that her upcoming reality series on TLC indicates she’s not serious enough to run for president.

Rove took aim at Palin’s show – the eight-part ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ set to premiere Nov. 14 – in an interview last week in The London Telegraph.  “With all due candor,” Rove said, “appearing on your own reality show on [TLC], I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of ‘that helps me see you in the Oval Office’.”

“There are high standards that the American people have for [the presidency],” Rove continued, “and they require a certain level of gravitas, and they want to look at the candidate and say ‘that candidate is doing things that gives me confidence that they are up to the most demanding job in the world’.”

He also took a shot at one of Palin’s promo spots for her new show, in which she’s seen somewhere in the wilds of Alaska declaring, “I would rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office.”  Rove suggested that the statement will lead potential voters to believe Palin can’t be trusted to sit in an office and work hard for them.

So when Wallace asked her to respond to what Rove said about the TV show, Palin played the ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ card to make a point about the career Ronald Reagan had as a movie actor before he entered politics (though her comment made you wonder if Palin knows the difference between Bonzo, a chimp, and Bozo, a clown).

“I agree . . .  that those standards have to be high for someone who would ever want to run for president like, um, wasn’t Ronald Reagan an actor?” she said.  “Wasn’t he in ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ Bozo or something? Ronald Reagan was an actor.”

And here’s the part where she attempts to position her reality show as, well, not a reality series.  “Now look-it,” she lectured.  “I’m not in a reality show. I have eight episodes documenting Alaska’s resources, what it is that we can contribute to the rest of the U.S. to economically and physically secure our union, and my family comes along on the ride because I am family, family is us, and my family comes along on the ride to document these eight episodes for The Learning Channel and Discovery Channel.  . . .  So Karl is wrong right there in calling it a reality show.”

Palin’s attempt to categorize her show as something other than a “reality” show underscores the ongoing debate over what is reality and what is not on TV.   The “reality” category is pretty inclusive these days, encompassing everything from competition shows (from ‘Survivor’ to ‘Top Chef’) to all those dozens of “unscripted” series (from ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ all the way to ‘Pawn Stars’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’).  In fact, it’s possible Palin is striving to distance her show from the reality pack so that no one lumps her in with Snooki, Kim Kardashian or Kate Gosselin.  Still, her show seems like a “reality” show and until someone comes up with another name for it, that’s what we’re going to continue calling it.

After they viewed a short clip from the TLC show of Palin on a rock-climbing adventure, Wallace told her, “I think you’re having too much fun, I think you’re making too much money . . .  I don’t think you’re gonna run!”  To which Palin answered, “If the country needed me  . . .  I would be willing to make the sacrifices, if need be, for America.”

So how about it?  Do you think Sarah Palin can make the leap from reality TV star to the presidency?

Contact Adam Buckman:


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