Alaskan Reality: Why Are Alaska Reality Shows So Popular?

Unless you live in the middle of the Alaskan bush with no connection to society, you probably know there’s a flood of Alaska reality shows on television.  Then again, there is a chance you might know, because you have you’re own reality show.

Image courtesy of Alaska Dispatch News.
Image courtesy of Alaska Dispatch News.

For the past decade an unmistakable pattern in television has developed, Alaska reality shows!  Are these shows part of a larger reality television trend or is Alaska just that great?

3 reasons Alaska reality shows are so popular!

1)  Alaska’s an amazing place

It’s the plain and simple truth, Alaska is awesome.  Epic mountain ranges, an endless coastline, and world-class wildlife are only a few of her qualities.  Along with opportunities that don’t exist anywhere else, not much else needs to be said.

Prince William Sound.
Prince William Sound.

 

2)  Financial Incentives

Aside from the ratings, another little known reason for so many Alaska reality shows is a tax credit.  Officially named the Alaska Film Production Credit Incentive Program, this controversial program was established by the Alaska Legislature in 2008 and gives tax credits from 30% -58% for producing films in Alaska.  When combined with no state income tax and no state sales tax, it makes doing business in Alaska even more enticing.

Courtesy of Alaska Film Office.
Courtesy of Alaska Film Office.

 

3)  Escaping your personal reality

Escape-Lane

This holds true for all reality shows, you can walk in someone else’s shoes without getting dirty.  I think most people have dreamed of an alternate reality at some point in their lives.  Just like little boys want to be a fireman and little girls dream of being princesses, adults do the same thing.


Do you know the reality behind most reality shows?

Photo courtesy of time
Photo courtesy of time
  • Most are scripted and staged.  For example, shows like House Hunters portray people shopping for a house, when in reality they have already bought the house.
  • Editing is where the real deception happens!  Editors can make good people bad and create false urgency, but they often make gross mistakes the average viewer doesn’t catch.
  • Most reality shows start off with a piece of truth, then producers and editors spin it into what we see on the television.  If that’s what the public wants, they are doing their job really well.  When in fact real life can be pretty boring.

When did it all start?

  • Going back to the early 90’s, one could say Northern Exposure planted the seed for Alaska’s current television fame.  The pioneer of Alaska reality shows, Deadliest Catch first aired in 2005 and is still going strong.  Here we are 10 years later, and most of the new shows being produced are pretty pitiful from an Alaskan’s perspective.
Photo courtesy of CBS
Photo courtesy of CBS

It only took a few minutes watching these Alaska reality shows to figure out they should never have made it past the drawing board.

  • Alaska Monsters:  This completely staged show is so easy to see through.  The worst part is the over acting of the characters on the show.
Photo courtesy of Destination America
Photo courtesy of Destination America
  • Slednecks:  This Jersey Shore of Alaska show is truly an embarrassment to the state.
Photo courtesy of MTV
Photo courtesy of MTV
  • Alaska Off-road Warriors:  I caught myself mumbling words like bullsh** within the first few minutes.  They did a horrible job staging the off-road race. 
Photo courtesy of History Channel
Photo courtesy of History Channel

Living in the land of reality television.

Alaska is a huge state but overall is still a very small community and many of us through a degree or two of separation know someone who has participated in a reality show.  This makes us privy to information about how shows are staged.  We also know our state and can recognize when a show is using “stock” footage or misrepresenting a location.

Our two cents on Alaska Reality Shows?

2 cents

They are producing Alaska reality shows at an insanely rapid rate.  Who watches these shows?  We’re definitely guilty of watching a few of them (on DVR).  Like us, most of the Alaskans we know barely tolerate them, but many of our friends in the Lower 48 can’t get enough of them.

Deadliest Catch:  The show that started it all and I can’t believe we still watch it.  After almost a decade I guess viewers develop a sort of relationship with the show.  At this point, when we do watch it, it’s definitely to see the people, not the crabbing.

Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel
Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel

Alaska State Troopers:  It seems like half of this show is filmed in the Mat-Su Valley busting drunks and crack heads with guns, it gets really repetitive.  There are nice and normal people in the Valley, but they don’t commit crimes which translate into ratings.  They also show very sad and real problems in Alaska without offering or presenting solutions.  Our DVR records the show, but most of the time,  I fast forward to the 5 minute segment they do with Brown Shirts (Wildlife Troopers).

Photo courtesy of National Geographic
Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Living Alaska & Buying Alaska:  These are the House Hunters of Alaska and they’re completely staged.  We know through the Alaska grapevine that some of the houses that the “buyers” were looking at were not even for sale.  But, we love real estate so we keep watching.  Just for fun we decided to count how many times they said the word Alaska in a single 30 minute episode.  It was 44 times!

Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel
Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel

Alaska The Last Frontier:  The show is based off of the Kilchers, a nice family who homesteads and lives off the land.  It’s hugely popular but for those with local knowledge, it’s very frustrating.  The editors twist reality to make viewers think the family is in the middle of nowhere, when in reality they are only miles away from the town of Homer.  The constant impending sense of doom created by the editors also makes viewers feel as if the whole family will die if they don’t accomplish the task of each episode.  I’ve recorded a few episodes here and there, but it was too painful to keep watching.  It is truly a shame how producers and editors can ruin a show about a family that leads an interesting life.

Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel
Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel

Ultimate Survival Alaska:  This show is completely staged, but I enjoy seeing the outdoors of Alaska.  It does get ridiculous at times when Marty catches a big halibut on an old snow ski and then proceeds to shoot a hole in the boat when trying to dispatch the fish.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic
Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Gold Rush:  The show films in the Yukon Territory and Alaska and follows few groups of miners trying to strike it rich.  I don’t know how much of the show is staged, but if there are dozens of cameras following these miners every day for months there are plenty of opportunities to twist things up.

The show portrays the miners working around the clock and never taking any time off.  In the summer of 2014 we were in Dawson City and took our ATV for a drive to the mines on a Saturday and none of the mines were operating.  We also saw a couple cast members of the show when we were walking through town.  We watch the show and particularly enjoy following the young man Parker Schnabel and his amazing grandfather John Schnabel.

Photo Courtesy of Discovery Channel
Photo Courtesy of Discovery Channel

Alaska Starts Here:  This new show is filmed in our home town of Seward.  It follows a few local business owners during their busy season.  There’s the typical edited in sense of urgency, but from the one episode I’ve seen it is not too far fetched yet.

Photo courtesy of Travel Channel
Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

 

In closing, I hope we helped to shed a little light on the Alaska reality television trend.  I completely understand the draw to Alaska and the Alaska reality shows.  It’s the same reason we live here!

We would love to hear your thoughts on Alaska reality shows.  Please comment below.

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