Attention, America: You. Are. Amazing.
More importantly: Sarah Palin has finally found her calling.
“Amazing America with Sarah Palin,” which premiered Thursday, is mostly amazing in that it has created the perfect job for America’s most controversial beauty-queen-turned-sportscaster-turned-politician-turned-pundit-turned-reality-television-star. No joke, between this new show and her appearance on Jimmy Fallon this week, she should be a contender to replace Letterman.
I’ll be honest: When I told my husband I was going to be recapping each episode of Sarah Palin’s new TV show, he offered to make a liquor store run. He remembers all too well the dark days when I was watching four hours a week of Bristol Palin on “Dancing With the Stars” and recapping “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” in between. But it’s been a few years, and my liver has had time to recover.
What’s more: I actually kind of really like the new show.
Before you hit “send” on that hate mail, let me elaborate.
For some viewers, I suppose enjoying “Amazing America” will mean forgetting Palin was ever a politician. But if you can come into it buying your host Sarah’s description of herself as “a wife, a mother, a sportsman and, above all, an American,” you might be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself.
In the first episode, Sarah sets up the show’s premise: She’s “rounded up a posse to explore all that makes America great,” although if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know it’s not really “all” that makes America great. For example, it’s a fairly safe bet that “Amazing America” will not be exploring, say, the Touro Synagogue or the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum or the Microsoft campus, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that those are some of all the things that make America amazing. So let’s just stipulate to the fact that the show will be exploring SOME of what makes America great. Specifically, in Sarah’s words, “red, wild and blue patriots who are full of the American spirit and love the great outdoors.”
Cowboys and cowgirls
The first episode is about cowboys. Kind of. Actually, it’s about someone named Cowboy -- professional wrestler Cowboy James Storm.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about Cowboy James Storm on “Amazing America”:
• The URL for his website is SorryAboutYourDamnLuck.com. Amazing.
• He was with WCW for a while, but he didn’t make the cut when WCW was bought out by WWF (now WWE. Are you keeping up?).
• He mostly does tag team, which I can’t believe they left out of the show, since what’s more American than teamwork?
• One of his tag team partnerships was called Beer Money, Inc. Amazing.
Sadly, Sarah herself does not interview Cowboy; instead, she sends a proxy, Willow Springs Wildman Jerry Carroll, to Cowboy’s home base in Thompson Station, Tenn., and Sarah pops up in talking head segments from time to time.
After visiting Cowboy’s home (predictable knotty pine peppered with mounts, including the eight-point buck he shot at age 9) and shooting some Coors Light cans out back, Jerry joins Cowboy in the gym, where he earns the Good Sport Award by suiting up in silver Lycra tights -- which, to his absolute credit, he completely pulls off, particularly for a guy in his mid-50s. It’s amazing (America!).
One of Cowboy’s signature moves is the Eye of the Storm, which involves lifting his opponent over his shoulders in a crucifix hold, spinning around, and ending in a body slam. (My husband tells me this is a reverse flapjack. Personally, I’m just disappointed the wrestling episode didn’t feature Stephanie McMahon, because I would love to see her share the canvas with Sarah Palin.) Cowboy invites Jerry to give it a try. Jerry, having maxed out his good sport-ness on the tights, declines and calls in a stunt double.
Later, Cowboy drinks beer out of a plastic pitcher with a straw. He calls it a “redneck sippy cup.” It is amazing.
Next, Sarah sends another proxy, Mark Christopher Lawrence, to Glasgow, Mont., where he meets up with Julie Golob, who is a world champion markswoman. Mark is not.
Julie has a shooting range on her property, and she takes Mark through a series of courses. Mark is a legitimately terrible shot, although in his defense, Julie is a one of the best sharpshooters in the world. After she humiliates him on the range, she invites him into the house, where she shows off a four-point mule deer mount she shot while “very pregnant.”
(Apparently one requirement for being featured on “Amazing America” is having a deer’s head hanging on your wall.)
Julie then serves up her “famous game day nacho venison chili,” which, one might imagine, must be the Lower 48 equivalent of mooseburger chili, and although it’s a little insider baseball, I appreciate the reference.
In the second episode, which also aired Thursday night, we actually get some meaningful camera time with Sarah right here on the Last Frontier when “Amazing America” travels north to visit with another famous Alaska lady: DeeDee Jonrowe, who Sarah describes as “a triumphant voice for women in male-dominated dog mushing.”
Those well-acquainted with the history of the modern Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race might here point out that women have actually kind of been kicking ass at mushing for a long time, but DeeDee is a nice lady and I was, at this point, two glasses of wine (DOMESTIC wine, because this is amazing America!) into the show, so I wasn’t about to rain on anyone’s parade.
Sarah trucks out to DeeDee’s dog lot to meet some residents of the kennel. The first one of DeeDee’s dogs we meet is named Track, which is a little awkward, since that’s also one of Sarah’s kids’ names. And then the next dog is named Trig, and it fortunately turns out they’re from a litter of puppies named after members of the Palin family, which is honestly a relief. Imagine going to someone’s house to film an episode of your TV show and it turns out they’ve named their dogs all the same things you’ve named your kids. Uncomfortable.
DeeDee shows Sarah around the lot and talks about how she reads her dogs’ body language to see how they’re feeling, which leads one to hope the angry folks at that Florida-based anti-mushing operation are watching, but my guess is maybe they don’t get the Sportsman Channel; I get the sense they’re not really the target audience.
Up next, DeeDee and Sarah get ready to go out for a run, and to be honest, things get fuzzy here, and it ain’t the amazing American wine that’s the issue. A lot of Sarah and DeeDee’s chatter as they bootie the team can’t be heard at my house, because the background noise of the dog lot is making our dog bark, and the dog barking is making the baby chatter, so at this point my notes are mostly “Bark bark... growl... babble babble ma ma ma.” Welcome to the amazing life of a wife, a mother and, above all, an American.
DeeDee harnesses up, and Sarah takes the second sled, shouting “I love my life!” as the team takes off. Here I’m a little jealous of her; if you’ve never been on a dogsled, you really should do it sometime, because it’s amazing (America!), and Sarah is clearly having a blast.
Oh, AND THEN SHE COMPLETELY FALLS RIGHT OFF THE SLED.
And here’s where I have to give Sarah credit: This moment stays in the show. Well, OK, first things crank down to slow motion, and there’s a hint of dramatic music, like maybe she’s been seriously injured. But! Good news! She hops back up! She’s on the sled! “I’m good!” she says. “Let’s go!” Amazing! America!
After the run, the new besties bop over to Sarah’s place, where she shows off her TV studio, and then she invites DeeDee over for dinner: “The usual -- we’ll have moose chili” (THERE IT IS! Amazing) “with a little beer in it to spice it up; moose hot dogs, caribou sausage, salmon dip” -- and Pilot Bread, because “we can’t have a meal without Pilot Bread.”
As they eat, there’s a lot of talk about the precious (amazing!) gift of hunting and gathering.
“We respect our natural resources,” Sarah says. “We’re all into conservation because we want this to continue in perpetuity ... I tell my kids, yes, we eat organic, we just have to shoot it first.”
Here’s what I learned watching the first two episodes of “Amazing America with Sarah Palin”:
• We get The Sportsman Channel at my house. I literally had no idea.
• Sarah Palin talks baby talk when she talks to dogs. (Amazing.)
• If the credits and titles are any indication, The Sportsman Channel thinks Sarah Palin is still the governor of something.
• Being a “modern-day cowboy” has nothing to do with wrangling cattle and much to do with liking guns.
• Technically, under the “Amazing America” definition, I qualify as a modern-day cowboy.
• Horses do not have airbags.
With 10 more episodes left to go, here’s the bottom line: If you are remotely interested in guns, horses, trucks and/or dogs (no, seriously, those things are specifically mentioned in the truly awful theme song); if you like sassy girl-power messages; if you can get on board with things like stock car racing and pro wrestling; and most importantly, if you can reach deep inside of you and forget Sarah Palin is anything but an engaging television presenter with a strange accent; you can love “Amazing America.”
And if you can’t do those things, don’t worry. I’ll be watching so you don’t have to.