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Reality Check: The Brown family vs. Big Brother on 'Alaskan Bush People'

Emily Fehrenbacher

I've started to notice a trend in Discovery Channel's Tuesday programming: the government ruins everything. First, on "Deadliest Catch," the feds shut down the crab fishery and America's favorite fishermen had to work double time to catch up when the season opened late. Thanks for nothing, Washington. Then that same government went and burned down the Brown family cabin on "Alaskan Bush People" because it was on public land.

You can see this trend of hating on "the Man" in many other shows outside the Discovery Channel's Alaska night. Maybe this is Discovery's way of tapping into the current Cliven Bundy craze.

I mentioned "Alaskan Bush People" in my column last week, but now that I've actually seen an episode, it is even crazier (and therefore better) than I had imagined.

The Brown family was living in a single-room cabin somewhere near Ketchikan, before the government ruined everything. So they've decided to relocate to the Copper River Valley, just outside of Chitna, to start their new life. Did I mention that the Brown family has nine members, with seven kids ranging in age from 10 to 30? And they all live in a one-bedroom cabin?

In the beginning of the episode, they ask the older kids to identify popular culture icons. The Browns had no idea who Kim Kardashian was. No idea what an iPhone was. They didn't know about the Chicago Cubs. And one thought that Tiger Woods was a state park in Michigan. I loved it. I would gladly watch a show where they participate in cultural quiz challenges.

Each family member has their niche. My favorite was 25-year-old Bear, who is the "extreme guy." Bear runs at full speed everywhere he goes. They show him climbing trees, digging holes, running up mountains to scout, etc. If you watched "The Office," he is Dwight's cousin Mose.

The show has the typical Alaskana story arcs that make anyone who lives here roll their eyes (example: a moose on the road), but which I'm sure are still interesting to those in the Lower 48. Despite that, this crazy family totally makes up for a lack of new plot points.

I found it slightly troubling that the three women of the family barely spoke. We hear a little bit from Snowbird, the 18-year-old daughter, but almost nothing from Ami, the mother, and Merry Christmas Catherine Raindrop, the 10-year-old with the greatest name in the world.

While trying to build their cabin before winter hits, the Browns realize that the timber resources of the Copper River Valley aren't going to cut it. So Matt, the oldest son, and Billy, the father, head to Uncle Tom's Bar in Chitna to try to make a deal on lumber. No one's face in the bar was blurred out. That means that somehow the Discovery Channel got everyone in Uncle Tom's to sign a release, which was probably the most shocking part of the episode. Billy cuts a deal, getting $10,000 of materials for $5,000, some labor from his sons and a caribou. What a screaming deal.

At the end, there was a teaser for the rest of the series. In one episode, the boys head out to meet girls, and Bear asks one of them if she likes to climb trees. I simply cannot wait to witness this magic moment.

"Alaskan Bush People" airs Tuesday nights on Discovery Channel.

• Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage, where she reviews Alaska reality TV.

 


Emily Fehrenbacher
REALITY CHECK