Film and TV

'Alaskan Bush People' father talks PFD fraud in new season: 'I would never cheat Alaska'

Like the mosquitoes, "Alaskan Bush People" is back. There is a lot of material to cover, so I've made a digestible list of highlights from season five, episode one.

1. Discovery Channel has made the wise decision to address the legal troubles of the Brown family. For those who haven't been following the never-ending saga, Billy Brown (the father) and Joshua "Bam Bam" Brown (the second-oldest son) pleaded guilty to falsifying their Permanent Fund dividend applications.

The Brown family's narrative of how this happened is outlined via the following monologue by Billy Brown, which was interspersed with the history of the Permanent Fund dividend program from the narrator of "Alaskan Bush People."

Billy Brown (to the camera while wearing a very hip orange plaid shirt): "When we received the letter accusing my family and I of illegally getting our dividends from Alaska, my heart broke. … Alaska to us was a salvation. It laid out in front of us a freedom that we had dreamed of. It was only a dream until we set foot into this country. Alaska gave us all of that. I would never cheat Alaska."

Brown claims that because they didn't have ferry or plane tickets from traveling back and forth from the Lower 48, they couldn't prove their innocence. "No one used to care where we went, what we did. It was every American's God-given right to live how they wanted to live. Independent. That's America, man. That's Browntown now," Billy says to his children. It's official -- Billy Brown is better at pivoting than anyone who is or was running for president of the USA.

Regardless of who was where when, this hurts the "never left the Bush"/"What's an iPhone?" characters that Discovery has worked so hard to create over the years. Still, I applaud the producers for actually addressing the controversy.

[Digging for the reality behind 'Alaskan Bush People' claims of gunfire]


2. The Browns are looking fresh -- each Brown in his or her own way. Most noticeable is Merry Christmas Catherine Raindrop (aka the youngest, most normal Brown with the strangest name) who is wearing Patagonia on Patagonia, like she's going to pre-fly fishing brunch. Her labels are taped over, but as the owner of a Re-Tool Snap-T Fleece Pullover, I could still tell. That reality TV money must be good, and finally someone on this show is actually dressed for Southeast's climate.

Also notable, and always at the forefront of impractical Bush fashion, Noah has a snazzy new leather cape attached to his floor-length coat. He's completed the ensemble with a matching top hat and knee-high leather boots. Turns out he had to get jazzed up, because he's having a girl come visit from Seattle. This mystery woman is visiting while the rest of the family is gone … overnight. Good thing "Alaskan Bush People" airs on Friday nights.

3. They arrive back at Browntown after being away for three months with no luggage, further proving that Browntown is really more of an idea than an actual town where people live. (In case you have better things to do than read the darkest corners of the Internet, it is rumored that the Browns actually stay at a lodge in Hoonah while filming "Alaskan Bush People.")

4. Another bear has destroyed their home. OK, Browns. You've lived in the Bush "for 30 years" and you still don't know how to bear proof your home? What happened to that idea of finding a baby bear and training it to fight off other bears? Can we revisit that?

5. And just because lists should have five things on them, one of the Brown boys was rowing a canoe with a shovel. I found this to be hilarious.

As previously stated, "Alaskan Bush People" airs on Friday nights on Discovery Channel.

Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage, where she reviews Alaska reality TV. You can reach her at or on Twitter @ETFBacher.

Emily Fehrenbacher

Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage and writes "Reality Check," a regular look at reality television set in Alaska.