TLC’s new reality series Sarah Palin’s Alaska could just as easily, and maybe more accurately, be called Alaska’s Sarah Palin.
The show, filmed over the summer at the Palin home in Wasilla, is meant to be a sort of travelog that showcases the majestic state through the eyes and physically active lifestyle of its former governor and her family. But with all due respect and apologies to Mount McKinley, Palin is the most telegenic thing here. Unlike McKinley, she easily fits in the TV frame, and she can also talk, speaking with one of the most distinctive cadences in American politics today.
The first hour of the show, at least, played out as a shrewd, beautifully produced political ad intended to link the one-time vice presidential candidate in the audience’s minds with an image that is homegrown, rugged and strong.
There’s nothing unfair or even surprising about this. It wouldn’t be much different if the sitting vice president left office and starred in a TLC series called Joe Biden’s Delaware. That state has plenty to offer too, you know.
Here are my three favorite moments from the premiere:
1. Palin and husband Todd climb the base of Mount McKinley. It’s impossible to watch this footage and not see it as a metaphor for Palin’s own self-propelled rise in politics. The segment was a bit hokey, but Palin deserves credit for making her way up a rock face despite an admitted fear of heights. I wouldn’t have blamed her for standing on a stepladder and calling it a day.
2. The show includes a quick, face-blurred shot of an unidentified man who is presumably journalist Joe McGinness at a neighboring house in Wasilla. Palin complained last summer that McGinness, working on a book about her, had moved in nearby so he could snoop. When Todd and his friends built a 14-ft. fence to block any unwanted scrutiny, Palin adds – in a wink at immigration policy – that it might occur to others that “this is what we need to do to secure our nation’s border.” If she really wants to deal with an annoying neighbor, she should follow Sharon Osbourne’s example from her MTV reality show and chuck a ham over that fence.
3. Despite the many shots of the family airborne in prop planes, I was most impressed when Palin put on a power-red blazer and retreated to her small home TV studio, which this allows her to make sure that she can keep her paddle in the swift-flowing river that is TV news and opinion. While she addresses a camera for a talking-head segment with Bill O’Reilly, Todd monitors the scene carefully. (If and when the stern-looking Todd decides to speak, she says, “He’s talkin’ to say somethin’, you know? He’s not just yappin’ his jaw.”) The only glimpse of nature we see here is a lake through the window that serves as her backdrop, but that’s probably as much as we really need.
These impressions may change with future weeks, especially as we spend more time with Palin’s children. For now, of course, the public probably cares most about the daughter starring on Bristol Palin’s Dancing with the Stars.
Tell us: What did you think of Sarah Palin’s Alaska