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Film and TV

MTV's 'Slednecks' spotlights the wild life of Wasilla millennials

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 20, 2014

Starting next week, Alaska will have 11 new reality TV stars when "Slednecks" begins airing on MTV.

And Alaskans, by and large, are not pleased.

"This show is going to be the worst thing to happen to Alaska since Sarah Palin," wrote one commenter on the "Slednecks" Facebook page.

"As if the Palins haven't already screwed up the Lower 48 perception of us; everyone thinks we're a bunch of dumb, drunken, perpetually pregnant hillbillies looking for a brawl," another wrote.

"Slednecks" marks the latest reality TV show to be set in Alaska, which has seen a rush of shows thanks in part to lucrative film tax credits. Some Alaskans have criticized the shows as giving a less-than-honest portrayal of Alaska life. A spokeswoman for the "Slednecks" show said it had not applied for the credits.

"Slednecks" is described by MTV as a weekly, half-hour "comedic docu-series" following a group of close friends living in "rural Wasilla, Alaska." The first season includes 18 episodes, with a 90-minute premiere set to air Thursday, Oct. 30.

The show is from Zoo Productions, the company responsible for "Buckwild," a reality series with a similar premise set in West Virginia. Production on the show -- which was both popular and controversial -- halted abruptly after the death of one of its stars.

MTV and the production company have been hesitant to draw direct comparisons between the two shows. Executive producer John Stevens said "Slednecks" is a comedy, closer in tone to "Jersey Shore" than the more somber West Virginia production. The production company is proud of "Buckwild," Stevens said, but story lines of young people doing crazy stunts in rural places is where the comparisons both begin and end.

"This show is less drama and more of a comedy," Stevens said. "I can see the correlation but that wasn't what we set out to do."

Stevens said the production company wanted to find a story about Alaska that was different from the other reality shows. They came to Anchorage not knowing where they would set the series but ended up finding the talent they needed in the Matanuska Valley. He said the "Palin Factor" wasn't even on their minds -- Stevens said he didn't know Sarah Palin was from Wasilla until they began filming.

Stevens said the cast of 11 Alaskans between the ages of 19 and 24 is essentially like "grown-up Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Like, they know how to make a fire with their hands, they know how to fix things.

"They're survivalists in a very fun way from a millennial standpoint," Stevens said. "I don't think people have seen something like this."

‘This is just us’

The first three episodes, provided in advance to Alaska Dispatch News, include scenes that will seem both familiar and semi-staged to Alaskans. Some of the cast live in half-finished houses still wrapped in Tyvek plastic, their yards littered with snowmachine and four-wheeler parts. Parties consist of Bud Light, Malibu rum and muktuk -- whale blubber, not a common treat at Wasilla keggers. In one scene, members of the cast take shots of caribou blood.

"With mountains and rivers as their playground, these friends make the most of what they have while always having a blast," according to a description from MTV.

Some moments are clearly staged. One party is held on a glacier, another in a remote cabin where they play tug-of-war with an airboat and GMC Sierra 4x4 pickup. Drama abounds -- in scenarios clearly set up to maximize confrontation. For example, a man talks to another woman at a party, causing his girlfriend to question whether they should stay together. She later blows up his couch and clothes in a rage.

Trevor Hash, 24, and Kelly Ray Hill, 22, are two of the main cast members and, according to their cast bios, the main planners of some of the antics. Hash is noted in his bio as a "self-proclaimed 'fungineer.' "

Hill and Hash said a lot of the idea process stems from the Alaska mentality of making do with what you have.

"You literally have to make your own fun," Hill said.

"We get really bored sitting at home," Hash added.

In an interview this month, Hash said about 95 percent of what they do is the cast members' own ideas, and the other 5 percent is the extra push from producers they needed to bring the ideas to life. Within reason.

"Some things we want to do but (the production company) is like 'you could die,' and that's the 5 percent we don't do," Hash said.

Hill and Hash grew up in Anchorage, attending West and Bartlett high schools, respectively. Hill moved to Wasilla three years ago, Hash last year. Both said they did so for cheaper living and better job opportunities.

That's also what brought Jackie Nanini, 22, and Sierra Medgard, 22, to Wasilla. Nanini grew up in Kotzebue and is the only Inupiat member of the cast. Medgard is also from Anchorage, a Service High School grad who moved to Wasilla three years ago.

In an interview, Nanini said moving to Wasilla was a huge culture shock for her, with its fast food, cheap gas, paved roads and stoplights. She has a similar attitude on the show, sometimes acting as the voice of reason in between all the shenanigans. In a risqué bikini photo shoot, Nanini expresses her discomfort, instead wearing an elaborate fur parka borrowed from a relative.

But the show brought Nanini to the city and to greater opportunities, she said. She hopes to use the success of the show to pay for school and plans to become a bush pilot.

The entire cast said they understood the concerns people might have over their antics. They insist they don't represent people from Wasilla or Alaskans as a whole. They represent only themselves.

"This is just us," Medgard said. "We're not trying to portray anything in a negative light."

Hill wasn't worried the show would perpetuate negative stereotypes of Wasilla. He didn't think it put the community in a poor light but acknowledged that opinions would differ. If anything, he said, the cast held back from the "Wasilla way," an even crazier set of pranks that never would have made it onto TV.

"There's a lot of wild, crazy people out here," Hill said. "I think we hold it back a little bit."

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