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Reality Check: What a long, strange trip 2015 was for Alaska reality TV

  • Author: Emily Fehrenbacher
    | Reality Check
  • Updated: July 1, 2016
  • Published December 30, 2015

It's hard to believe that in just one year we traveled from MTV's Busch Light-fueled "Slednecks" to a wholesome, boring, several-hours-long Thanksgiving special of "Alaska Railroad." It's even harder to believe that these shows don't mark the end of the Alaska reality television boom, or society as we know it.

But it only takes thousands of crazy people obsessed with the Brown family of "Alaskan Bush People," about 10 new shows, hundreds of hours of bear B-roll footage and a few real-life scandals to remind you that we are still in a TV gold rush for new Alaska content. Even the NFL Network, a franchise you'd think couldn't care less about Alaska, got in on the action with "Football Town: Barrow Alaska."

This year we saw the final season of "Ultimate Survival Alaska," a legitimately good competition show on National Geographic Channel. RIP. Several new shows tried their best to hang in there with the big boys. My personal favorite, for the comedy and absurdity, is of course "Alaska Monsters," while "The Last Alaskans" was churning out some actual quality TV.

"Alaska's Ultimate Bush Pilots," "Land Rush," "Port Protection," "Battle on the Bay" and "Yukon River Run" were some of the lesser-watched new shows that followed the wilderness-filled TV tropes we've become too familiar with over the last 10 years.

Discovery Channel was churning out as many episodes as they could of "Deadliest Catch," "Bering Sea Gold," "Alaskan Bush People," "Yukon Men" and "Alaska: The Last Frontier" -- including several recap episodes, "after shows" with the cast members and even live webcams. And at about any time of the day you can turn on your TV to catch episodes of "Buying Alaska" (Discovery) or "Living Alaska" (HGTV), which are exactly the same show but produced by different networks.

Hunting and fishing violations were all the rage this year, from the Outdoor and Sportsman channels, to cast members of "Alaska: The Last Frontier" and "Alaskan Bush People."

Then came the drugs. "Ultimate Survival Alaska" star Tyler Johnson had some issues with meth and stealing trailers. The pressures of minimal cable fame are just too much sometimes.

And finally, the "Alaskan Bush People" apparently should just be called "Bush People" after they pleaded guilty to lying about residency to get their PFDs.

All in all, it's been another big year for Alaska reality TV, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. So with that, have a happy new year, and in 2016, I'll be watching so you don't have to.

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

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