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Reality television is ignorant of Alaska reality

Elise Patkotak

OK, so reality TV is in the midst of a love affair with Alaska. Whatever bizarre idea they have for a show apparently sounds better to them if the address is sexy, and this year Alaska is sexy.

But I say if you're coming to Alaska to shoot a reality show, then how about shooting honest Alaska reality? You can go to Anyplace USA and find people who want to fight each other. That's not terribly Alaskan ... though we do it very, very well. No, what we need are reality shows that highlight what everyday Alaskans face in their everyday lives.

For instance, how about a show in which players jog down a trail that contains nesting birds of prey. Can they make it to the finish line before they are strafed and scraped by the needle pointed talons of an angry hawk? Or how about a show in which joggers have to dodge moose, bear, and dogs, and their respective leavings, to make it from one point on the trail to another. The winner is not necessarily the fastest person but the fastest person with the least amount of poo on their shoes. Nothing shows the agility of a true Alaskan like our ability to navigate a trail of poo and come out smelling like lilacs.

There could be sprint competitions in which city folk are seen running to their cars in zero degree weather through snow piles on icy sidewalks while wearing loafers and heels. First person to make it to the car without slipping, sliding or otherwise impairing their dignity wins.

Yep, there are a thousand and one ways in which Alaskans can participate in truly Alaska reality shows that the networks have not even begun to explore. Think RV hopscotch. Following an RV down the Seward Highway, wondering if the driver will ever pull over so traffic can pass, wondering if it will ever be safe to pull out and try to pass, wondering if giving the finger while passing will get you shot or whether the passing itself will get you killed. The drama never ends.

Another great idea for an Alaska reality show would be to have someone drive Alaska's roads while making insulting gestures to all they pass. The game would involve guessing how many of those insulted drivers will immediately pull out a gun and, for the bonus round, how many will actually fire it. Hey, you don't get the big bucks in reality TV if you aren't willing to take a few chances.

To pull in the animal crowd, we could have a show in which people walk their little dogs -- or, as we refer to them in Alaska, "eagle bait" -- and see how many make it down a road lined with eagles with their dog still with them. Extra points here would be awarded for every eagle they successfully fight off that's trying to grab their dog. To keep the animal lovers quiet, all dogs would be provided with thick vests that would hopefully keep eagle talons at bay. Thought to be perfectly honest, what a great addition to the tension of the show if there was that small chance that the vest wouldn't work. TV gold!

A great winter reality show would be the Clash of the Carts. We could watch people exiting Costco or Sam's Club, etc. as they try to navigate their overloaded rolling carts through the ice ridges, snow piles and -- during our famous annual January thaw -- the slush that covers all the ice ridges up. Extra points if you actually make it to your car without dumping anything into the dirty water or shaking you teeth loose as the cart shimmies madly.

I think the problem with the current crop of reality shows trying to come to Alaska is that they want the sexy Alaska address but they are totally ignorant of real Alaska challenges. So instead of dealing with Alaska reality, they are trying to make the Lower 48 work here. And that's simply not going to happen. No, if you want an Alaska reality show it should involve moose, moose droppings, eagles, bears, and high schoolers trying to walk to their prom dinner in high heels and gowns through icy sidewalks in 32 degree weather without shivering -- you know, real Alaska stuff.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaskan writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.


ELISE PATKOTAK
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