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Film & TV

Reality Check: TV life gets tough for cast of 'Escaping Alaska'

This week on TLC's "Escaping Alaska," a 32-year-old man breaks down because a 19-year-old girl is "mean" to him, a girl has her acting dreams crushed by a casting director and five young Alaskans live in a cockroach-infested hostel in San Diego. What is this television program?

First let's dig into this hostel. Nearly every other reality show I've watched puts the cast in a nice high-rise apartment, swanky beach house or repurposed hipster warehouse. What's the deal, TLC? Are you trying to make it seem like the cast really just moved to San Diego together and this is all they could afford? Why choose that to be the reality you stick to?

Then poor Tamara had to sell her sealskin gloves to make enough cash to get to Los Angeles for her audition, only to get soul-crushing rejection.

Now let's get into this 32-year-old man vs. 19-year-old girl drama. Nuala, a 19-year-old girl from Barrow, has been drinking and is talking to some dude with a foreign accent about "Eskimo kissing." Qituvituaq ("Q"), who everyone thought was in his 20s, storms off angrily. Then a black title card pops up and says, "Soon after this footage was shot, Q confronted Nuala. Tamara recorded the conversation on her phone."

Basically, Q goes off the deep end and says, "This is my only *bleeping* warning. If you ever drink again and I see you partying, I'll call the *bleeping* cops on you."

Nuala responds with "Why do you hate me?" Q says, "because you're *bleeping* stupid. You dance around like *Bleeping* *Bleep*. You're a stupid *bleep*, you *bleeping* glare at me and *bleep*."

Q then calls the cops. What's his reason? "I called the cops on Nuala because I wanted to hurt her. It angers me when people are mean to me for no reason."

And then came my favorite exchange that I've seen on TV in recent times. It went as follows:

Cops: How old are you?

Q: I'm 32.

Cops: What?

Q: I'm 32.

Cops: 32?

Q: Yeah, why?

Cops: I thought you were younger.

Q: I'll be a little *bleep* and call the cops about anything once I hate someone.

Cops: You need to relax, man.

Here's what I love so much about this interaction: You can't say that this didn't happen. Those are real police officers with blurred-out faces. This isn't some staged thing, where the cops are pretending to be exasperated learning this man's age. This is a real conversation about a 32-year-old man who called the cops on a 19-year-old woman for "glaring" at him, then threatens to do it again.

As you'd expect, things are awkward for the rest of the episode between Q and the cast. He claims his behavior was caused by the steroids he was taking due to an illness. Like I said last week, this show is so strangely watchable that I actually started to look forward to it.

Finally, a quick public service announcement. A new season of "Bering Sea Gold" premieres on Friday, Aug. 22. I hope the whole gang is back: Zeke Tenhoff, the Riedel crew and the rest of the crazy underwater gold mining team.

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

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