Sarah Palin's Alaska 

The Learning Channel, which began airing the eight-episode series Sarah Palin's Alaska on Sunday nights, offers a fascinating glimpse into the purportedly private life of a prominent politician. The show is--perhaps apropos of the subject--simultaneously gorgeous and annoying.

It features episodes titled "Mamma Grizzly" and "Just for the Halibut." She offers fishing advice to her children: "So, kids, when you cast, don't aim towards the bear, OK?"

The cinematography--untouched mountain ranges, vast snowscapes, dire clouds--are pure panoramic grandeur, but it's countered by moments of Palin explaining that the little fence on their stairs isn't there just to restrict their baby's curiosity--it's also to prevent her daughter's boyfriend from getting upstairs. He employs a genius strategy: he steps over it.

The Palin family includes an unusually monikered litter: Piper, Track, Willow, Bristol, Trig, Stickball, Hockeypuck, Fishbait, Tripp.

That last one is a real name. It's Palin daughter Bristol's son. After a day of fishing for halibut, then bashing the fishes' heads in with clubs and bleeding their veins to keep the meat clean, Palin says, "This is exactly what Bristol needed. It allowed her to just get away from it all."

Meanwhile, the week that show aired, Bristol was competing on Dancing with the Stars.

A few moments are devoted to author Joe McGinniss (Blind Faith, Fatal Vision), who recently moved into a house 15 feet away from the Palin family. He is writing a book about them and Mamma Grizzly isn't happy about that. At one point she gets angry about the intrusion and tells Willow that "he's stuck inside writing an ugly book."

Palin's husband, Todd, often referred to as her "helpmate," built a fence to separate the homes. McGinniss, as demonstrated by the program, could've just ignored the fence and turned on his TV.

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