Alaskana in Lights: Where True Alaska is Better and Wackier Than Fantasy
Much like Alaska offering something for every traveler, the producers of Alaska reality TV programs strive to offer the same wide variety for every viewer.
The early Alaska reality television show rush spawned one of the world’s more forgettable reality dating shows, 2002’s Looking for Love: Bachelorettes in Alaska. This was not a spinoff of the worldwide phenomenon that became “The Bachelorette,” which debuted in 2003. It was instead a forerunner of better dating shows to come. It sent five single Lower-48 women north to mix, mingle and go on many clichéd Alaska dates with 50 (mostly) big and burly Alaska bachelors. It also featured assorted Alaska challenges and adventures.
Ten years later, with dating shows all the rage, Alaskan Women Looking for Love (2013) carried the torch of Alaska romance but flipped the scenario. This six-episode series sent six Alaskan women to Miami in a search for love. While love for Alaskans is never a guarantee, everyone loves Alaska’s dogs! Over six episodes, Iditarod: The Toughest Race on Earth (2008) followed 95 dog teams and their mushers from the famous race’s ceremonial start in Anchorage to the finish line in Nome.
Dogs – as well as cats, pigs, ducks, horses, owls, bears, reindeer and more –are costars on Dr. Dee: Alaska Vet (2015-2016), which travels the state with the famous Fairbanks pet doctor who treats furry and feathered patients.
Who you gonna call when you see (or think you see) something strange in the Alaska wilds? The Midnight Sons, of course. This bearded bunch of outdoor experts are the stars of Alaska Monsters (2012-2013), which sends the crew around Alaska to investigate tall tales of big beasts. Using modern technology and old school smarts, they look for the Central Bigfoot, the Saberwolf, the Otterman, the Alaskan Tiger and other assorted monsters and mysteries. Season 2 was known as the Bigfoot Edition.
MTV was a groundbreaking force in reality TV, so it was no surprise that they tapped Alaska’s snow machine and party cultures for Slednecks (2014). Also no surprise: it was based out of Wasilla, hometown of Sarah Palin.
The spotlight shined so brightly on Palin and her hometown that even her favorite local salon received its own reality show. Seriously! Set in Wasilla, Big Hair Alaska (2011) spent its time in the Beehive Beauty Shop before getting clipped after just two episodes.
When prepared right, food programs make for tasty television. Proof: the phenomenon of Top Chef. Don’t let the title of Top Chef: Seattle, the 2012 edition of the popular competitive cooking program, fool you. Late in that season, the remaining cooks took a cruise ship ride to Juneau for three weeks of Alaska-based competitions, heavy on spectacular seafood, before the finale in Hollywood. The group even got to cook for Iditarod mushers. Sadly, no Alaskans were in the field of cooking competitors.
Equally sad, not many viewers bellied up to the bar for the lone season of Alaska Proof (2016), which presented the creative concoctions from the gang at Alaska Distillery, producer of Alaska Vodka. Each episode found them exploring Alaska in search of the perfect complement to their vodka: fireweed, spruce tip, glacier water, and more.