Sarah Palin’s Alaska

“Sarah Palin’s Alaska” made its debut on TLC last night. A remarkable five million people, a record for a TLC premiere, tuned in. I’m not surprised: other than sports, I make a point of watching a television show maybe once every six months, but I did tune in to see the Palins. It was a good show: the Palin family is likable, and politics, while often the subtext, rarely intruded overtly.
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The Palin family is obviously braver than most. There was spectacular footage of the Palins fishing in shallow water, a few feet from a couple of grizzlies. They fly everywhere in the sort of bush planes that frequently crash, and near the end of the show, Todd and Sarah went rock climbing in Denali National Park. The Palin kids, meanwhile, could easily succeed as sitcom characters. At one point Bristol said to her mother, “Mom, take your prom hair back home.” Piper was prominent last night; she described Sarah as addicted to her Blackberry, and did a pretty funny imitation of her mother typing on an imaginary smart phone.
The real star of the show was Alaska. The program is gorgeously filmed; just about anyone watching must have been jealous of the Palins for having such a spectacular playground.
Naturally, politics colored viewers’ perceptions of the show. Advertising Age began with snark, but had to admit that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” had no trouble attracting advertisers:

You’d think former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin would be too divisive a figure to attract mainstream advertisers. You might crack that the only marketers likely to consider sponsoring a TV show about her would be a gas-and-oil concern (she has advocated for drilling in Alaska) or an early-pregnancy test (her daughter, “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Bristol, has run into challenges with her ex-boyfriend after getting pregnant).
Would you be incorrect? You betcha!
A bevy of mainstream advertisers lined up to support the debut of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on Discovery Communications’ TLC channel Sunday night.

Confounding liberal “sophisticates” is easy. Palin could do it in her sleep. From a friendlier perspective, what does the TLC show do for, or to, her political prospects? So far, at least, it appears that the program will cement Palin’s status as on icon of the right. The Alaska imagery and emphasis on family will reinforce her fans’ image of her. While some have criticized the idea of a potential Presidential candidate participating in a reality show, I didn’t see anything last night that would be damaging to Palin’s career; on the contrary. My own complaint is entirely aesthetic: I find the tone of Palin’s voice grating. But her fans don’t seem to care.
I’m still not sure whether Sarah Palin wants to be a Presidential candidate or a kingmaker and cultural leader, but either way, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” strikes me as another stroke in a brilliantly-executed marketing campaign.

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