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Reality Check: Even in Alaska, there's a reality too boring for TV

Emily Fehrenbacher

“Whatcha wanna eat? Also, do you want to be on Buying Alaska?” read a text message I received on Sunday night from my significant other, Zac. And let me tell you, I have now thought long and hard about that question.

First, I wanted to eat a salad and vegetable-based soup. I settled for panzanella salad and some ahi from Suite 100, because there are very few good vegetable-based soup options during the dinner hour in this town.

Then, with a quasi-full belly, I contemplated the second question. Do I want to be on “Buying Alaska”?

For those who haven’t been following, “Buying Alaska” is a Destination America program where a couple looks at three Alaska homes and then chooses to “buy” one of them. The opportunity presented itself because a couple of our friends have already been on the show and Zac grew up in Talkeetna, which apparently is Hollywood gold.

You would think it would be an obstacle that we had just purchased a house in Anchorage -- and so had already "bought Alaska." In fact, that’s just an insignificant detail. We all know these shows are fabricated to give audiences a glimpse into the quirkiest, cutest or most miserable homes that Alaska has to offer. I would tell you exactly how the episode my friends were in was faked, but I don’t want to get them in trouble because I spilled their trade secrets. I think it's safe to say that most people on the show don’t actually purchase the homes they are purported to buy.

I can imagine the exact storyline I would set up for us. Zac grew up in Talkeetna and loves small town life and everything it has to offer. I grew up outside Chicago and love half-price happy hour appetizers, easy access to Costco produce and concerts that don’t take place at the Fairview Inn. So they’d set Zac up to be the rough-and-tumble Alaskan and me to be the outsider city girl. Which, of course, would be taking singular aspects of our complex personalities and blowing them up, in order to turn us into relatable archetypes.

My friends often joke with me that I have a Ph.D. in MTV, because I have an encyclopedic knowledge of former “Real World” cast members and can ramble on and on about “The Challenge,” “Jersey Shore” or any of the other programs from the late '90s to the present. When I was 18 I filmed a “Real World” audition tape in my parents' basement, which I hope never resurfaces, because I’m sure it was full of obnoxious teen angst. In college, my best friend and I applied to be on "The Amazing Race.” It's weird to think that now I actually could be on TV, because as I've gotten older and more cynical I've realized that I would be terrible at it.

I would over-analyze every question they asked me in an on-camera interview. I’d probably try to be as boring as possible to make sure I didn’t get a lot of screen time. Generally, I don’t think that my quirks and eccentricities would translate into good television, because no one wants to watch a show where I sit there referencing other TV shows and pop culture, or saying in interviews, “I know you are going to edit this out.”

It makes me think of the hundreds of Alaskans who have appeared on these programs, and how brave they are to put their personas in someone else’s hands and let them edit their lives into digestible short stories. I salute you.

I think it’s safe to say the final answer is “No, I do not want to be on ‘Buying Alaska.’” I’m just too old and boring now to be on any kind of TV show, and much more suited for sitting on my couch criticizing.

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