'Sarah Palin's Alaska': In Her (and Mark Burnett's) Own Words
Type "Sarah Palin's Alaska" into Google, and you get an avalanche of articles and reviews, some as least as revealing about the writers as the subject matter.
Yes, I'm out there in the mix. Click here for my syndicated interview feature on the show, which came out online a couple of days ago and will start appearing in print on Sunday.
The eight-part TV series that follows the Palin family on a summer adventure around the 49th State launches on Sunday, Nov. 14, on TLC, and is bound to stoke speculation on the former Alaska governor's future political plans, her personality, her family situation, etc. It will also offer an eyeful of staggeringly beautiful Alaskan scenery, courtesy of the crack production team headed by executive producer Mark Burnett ("Eco-Challenge," "Survivor," "The Apprentice").
Many are thrilled this show is happening; many are seriously not; many more may just tune in out of curiosity. Others feel that such a show "should" not happen. Ultimately, viewers will render judgment with their remote controls about whether there's a sufficiently large audience for a show like this, and the voice of the people will be heard. As always, upon that rests success or failure in TV.
For my story, I talked to both Burnett and Palin, and, as usual, not all of the conversations fit into an 800-max-word piece. Here's a bit more for my loyal Cuppers.
Burnett on why he produced this show: "I saw her step on that vice-presidential ticket, and suddenly, it was everywhere. Then, when the election was over, it carried on being everywhere, and everything she did was talked about.
"As a producer, my job is casting, and there are so many channels, and how do you break through the clutter? By the way, over 200 people like me approached her, every single channel, everybody approached her.
"My 'Eco-Challenge' and 'Survivor' background and my cred made her realize very quickly, 'OK, if I'm going to do something beautiful, this guy can do it.'"
Palin on hearing from Burnett: "He called us and said that he had always been fascinated with Alaska. He'd done work up there, and he knew that a way to showcase Alaska in a different way than he'd had opportunity in the past, was through my eyes.
"He knows that I'm just so extremely passionate about it and have a unique perspective on our resources and the people and the independent spirit that's up there, and I'd be able to share that by him working with me and documenting what it is that makes Alaska so unique .
"A lot of people have no idea about what Alaska has to offer. Alaska has the resources to secure our union, to allow prosperity to just flow throughout America. Through the lens of the camera and through our commentary, we're going to be able to show what the potential is that can be tapped into, to better our nation, from Alaska."
Palin on being a woman in Alaska (I was also thinking of Lisa Kelly from History's "Ice Road Truckers," Palin's fellow Wasilla resident, when I asked about this): "You have to be self-sufficient, and you can't really look to others to fix your problems or to take care of the practical things that need taking care of. Just basically to survive the harsh conditions of Alaska, you have to do it yourself.
"For me, when (my husband) Todd worked up on the North Slope oilfields and as a commercial fisherman for all of our marriage, for all those years, so, as a mom, home with little kids while he'd be gone six, seven, eight months out of the year -- the women in Alaska, we've got to take care of ourselves.
"We've got to fix things that get broken. We've got to work on the equipment. We've got to make sure that the house is heated. All that came into play this summer (during filming), too, with that streak of self-sufficiency that's required up there, especially in the women."
Palin on looking out for others in an unforgiving environment (I was thinking of this article when I asked her about this): "Especially in our villages, you have these safety cabins, essentially, and they're community-used. There are cabins that are left open, and there are foodstuffs, and there are sleeping bags. There's wood left in the cabin, because maybe somebody out snowmachining [HCTV: that's snowmobiling, for those in the Lower 48] or dog-sledding, they're out there in the wilderness, and they're going to need help.
"It's all about the Golden Rule -- you do that for somebody else, because you hope that they would do it for you. You leave the door open."
Palin on whether Burnett should do "Survivor: Aleutian Islands" (I've been after him about this for years): "Oooh, but you're exactly right. What could be tougher than trying to survive out there?"
(Don't hold your breath waiting for this -- I've never been able to budge Burnett an inch.)
Palin on "I can see Russia from my house": "I know. Eighty-seven percent of Americans who were polled thought I did say, "I can see Russia from my house.' But it was Tina Fey who said that, and 87 percent attribute it to me. That's how effective 'Saturday Night Live' was.
"But, of course, I capitalize on it. I'm like, 'OK, I'll put it into something fun, make lemonade out of a lemon.'"
So, is "Sarah Palin's Alaska" a travelogue, a documentary series or, as some pundits have suggested, an extended political ad signaling the start of her 2012 presidential campaign? I'm no prophet and no psychic, and I don't suppose you are either. If you're interested, you'll tune in and make up your own mind.