Film and TV

Reality Check: 'Football Town: Barrow' continues to impress, season finales at Discovery

It's season finale time. It only took me two years to realize that Alaska reality TV programs on the Discovery Channel come in pairs. "Yukon Men" and "Alaska: The Last Frontier" are back while "Edge of Alaska" and "Bering Sea Gold" are done-zo.

First, let's dig into "Bering Sea Gold" (pun!). The entire finale was basically a preview for the next season. Quote of the week goes to Emily Riedel, as she was cursing the Department of Natural Resources for shortening the winter underwater gold-mining season.

"We're choosing to be gold miners because we really like to be free. The fact that the government is stepping in and trying to dictate when we can mine and when we cannot mine is really sickening," she says. I didn't know that gold mining equaled freedom. But now I do.

Riedel and her partner Zeke Tenhoff brought in $11,000 in gold, and the season ended with a very staged fight over whether they'd continue to work together over the summer season, even though they'll have more freedom from the gov'ment. Zeke says, "When you need me, you'll need me. And make me an offer I can't refuse." I bet producers of "Bering Sea Gold" will make them both an offer they can't refuse to keep them working together and making TV.

Next up, on the season finale of "Edge of Alaska," it got real … real scripted and hilarious. Although one legitimately scary thing happened when an avalanche went down dangerously close to a production camp outside of the Mother Lode mine. Neil and his buddies (with a camera crew) happened to be in the old mine inside of the mountain as the avalanche fell. The cameras caught the mountain shaking, and the cast gets worried.

But no one was injured and it was off to the annual McCarthy barbecue, which supposedly is a last chance for locals to hang out before the beginning of the tourism season.

However, the only people in attendance were the stars of the show. It reminded me of all the parties on "The Hills" or the "Real Housewives" franchise where it just so happens that every single person attending the cocktail party/bonfire/weekend getaway happen to be in the cast. In real life, this never happens. Someone always has a boring new boyfriend or overbearing childhood friend who's in town. Also, there are more than six locals in McCarthy.

"Edge of Alaska" ended with a strange, unsuccessful showdown between the residents of McCarthy and Neil, who was trying to break ground on a future 100-room hotel. Again, by residents of McCarthy, I mean the cast of "Edge of Alaska." Neil ended up breaking ground after all, leaving us to wonder what will happen next season as he continues to try to develop McCarthy while the rest of the town wants things to stay as they are.

Finally, "Football Town: Barrow, Alaska" had another heartwarming episode. This show is great. It's a 30-minute program about high school football that actually treats the cast of mostly high-schoolers with respect -- not typical for reality TV. In the episode, the Whalers lose their second game to Nikiski while playing on their bright blue field next to the Arctic Ocean in 35 degrees and sideways rain.

The team lost one of their captains because he was a fifth-year senior and thus ineligible to play, but he stuck around to cheer them on. They had to bring in their second quarterback, a senior named David Matthews, after their first quarterback gets hurt.

As the kids chant to their coach in a "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" sort of way, I'm all in.

Emily Fehrenbacher

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

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