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Reality Check: 'Alaskan Bush People' lives again, responds to rumors of fakery

  • Author: Emily Fehrenbacher
    | Reality Check
  • Updated: July 1, 2016
  • Published June 19, 2014

I've been writing this column for over six months, so I'd like to take a reflective moment to address some of the comments that have come up.

First, this might sound crazy, but reality TV isn't real. Producers, showrunners, editors and others sit in a cozy room and think up ideas for entertaining storylines, then find people crazy enough to participate. From what I've heard, industry folk typically call it "unscripted television" instead of reality TV for that reason.

It's important to be literate and critical of any media that you are consuming, whether it's cable news, political advertisements, "Jersey Shore" or any other cringe-worthy garbage. By all means, if it doesn't bring you joy, then don't watch it. But it will continue to help shape our culture, and therefore I will continue to write snarky crib notes about the shows that are giving millions of people an image of what life is like in Alaska. And whether it's accurate or not, it's impacting our economy and population.

Also, my dear Internet commenters, I do have a life. I spend about three hours a week watching or writing about Alaska reality TV. That leaves me 165 hours a week to do things other than watch these shows.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's get to the newest chronicle in the "Alaskan Bush People" saga. To refresh your memory, "Alaskan Bush People" was a show about a weird family who were supposedly building a cabin the remote Alaska wilderness. They were actually in a subdivision just outside Chitina.

The show claimed they stopped filming after someone living in the area shot at the Brown family and production crews while filming. However, when Daily News reporter Zaz Hollander talked to the troopers and locals, all she found was an incident in which an angry neighbor shot off fireworks at a helicopter. When the show picked up again, the family was living on a boat in Southeast, but then the boat sank at the end of the episode. The entire series was strange, Papa Pilgrim-esque and confusing compared to other shows on Discovery.

So Discovery Channel produced a question-and-answer episode to address concerns from viewers. I love when TV shows break down the fourth wall. First, they addressed the rumor that these people were so weird they had to be actors by showing family photos from back in the day. Then they addressed the apparent shooting, and they are sticking with their story. The family patriarch, Billy Brown, says that leading up to the incident someone smashed the windows of their cars and community members had acted aggressively toward the Browns on more than one occasion pre-"shooting."

In this episode, we found out so much more about this quirky family. They said they never know what day it is, so they celebrate their birthdays and holidays based roughly on the season. I like to think whoever produced this segment reads my column, because we got more gems from producers asking the family pop culture questions.

"What comes to your mind when I say 'selfie?'" a producer asked Merry Christmas Catherine Raindrop Brown (the youngest Brown), who responded, "seaflower."

They asked the oldest son, "When I say 'twerking,' what do you think?" Matt Brown guessed, "It sounds kind of like putting a wrench on something and going a little too far with it."

There were also additional scenes of the boys unsuccessfully trying to pick up girls. "I like to dig in the dirt," said Bear Brown to a woman. I don't care if it was a contrived situation -- that is an amazing way to find a future wife.

Given the attention the show has garnered, my guess is this will not be the last we see of the Brown family and their life in the almost-Bush.

And with that, thanks for reading and keep commenting.

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