Top 10 moments of 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' premiere -- she's as outdoorsy as Roosevelt (Franklin)
If real life were like this, to paraphrase a member of the Palin clan, I would be outside 24/7 eating popcorn on a chair.
But instead, I'm inside watching "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on TLC. In escalating order, here are the top moments of last night's episode. I would say "I watch so you don't have to," but, actually, I urge you to watch. It's better than Dancing With the Stars!
- Sarah, the Bear Whisperer. One of my pet peeves and one of the reasons I worry about our longevity as a species is people who sit there ascribing rich inner lives to animals such as dogs and parakeets. "Look at the dog," they say. "He's thinking about how happy he'll be to ride in the truck. Yes sir. He's saying, 'Oh boy, is that truck for me?'" or "Look at Wally the Cockatoo. I know what Wally's thinking about -- this evening's episode of Criminal Minds! Ain't that so, Wally?" Sarah Palin does this, it turns out, but for bears. Here's what she claims the one she ran into while fishing with her family was thinking: "Nobody's going to mess with my cubs. Nobody's going to mess with the future of the species." Here's what it was actually thinking: "SALMON SALMON. OTHER BEAR. BAD. OTHER BEAR MUST BE STOPPED. GROWL. WHO IS THAT HAIRLESS BEAR IN BOAT? HAIRLESS BEAR IN BOAT MUST BE STOPPED. CAMERA? CAMERAS BAD. HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE CONTRACT WITH DISCOVERY."
- Piper Palin. I love everything Piper has to say for herself. Piper, on the same fishing trip: "I'm never going to catch a fish in my life."
- The awkward but omnipresent subtext of Palin and Todd's relationship, Todd catches a fish and Palin notes: "Todd feels like he's bringing home the bacon, that's the way it should be."
- Palinterior Design. There is an actual bear rug in the Palin livingroom, with head and everything. There is also the decapitated head of what looks to be an elk, with full antlers, mounted on the upstairs wall. It looks vaguely contrite. "This is what happened to the last male who was allowed upstairs," it seemed to say, as the camera cuts back and forth between it and Andy, a male friend of Willow Palin. "Leave while you still can." On the wall beside it is a blank space that has been left open for Levi Johnston's head, in case he ever shows back up in those there parts.
- The elaborate and beautiful lexicon of Palinisms These are all PG-rated and eloquently encompass grief, anxiety, and general discomfort, including, "We are somewhere that URRRRRRH people dream about coming to" or "Oh Gossssssh" or "Oh God help me. Here I go. Here I go Brian. I'm scared. Oh. Okay. That's. That's scarier than I thought." or "I hate hikes. All of a sudden. Hey."
- Crevasses. After watching Palin rock-climb, my new life goal is to sneak up behind her someday dressed as a crevasse. They terrify her! I don't know the sounds crevasses make, but I'll just yell, "Boo! I'm a crevasse." She finds these mortifying because they are "dark and never-ending."
- Mama? Grizzly? Menaced by a bear while fishing, Palin responds by grabbing Piper as a human shield. Sure, call it "protective maternal instinct" if you like, but it looked to me as though she were grabbing Piper for bartering purposes in case the bear decided it wanted a snack. "To get to me, you will have to go through my cub!" Palin seemed to be saying. "I mean, wait."
- The Book-Writer Next Door. The Palins put quite a bit of effort into avoiding the person across the way who has rented a house so that he can observe their life and write a book about them. I glimpse a terrible irony in this. He has moved all the way to Wasilla, Alaska, because he actively wants to see more of the Palins, and they are carefully shielding their activities from him, whereas I have moved to Washington, a place I hear is anathema to Sarah, so that I can avoid her as much as possible, and she insists on inflicting herself upon me every night this week.
- No Boys Upstairs! This policy produces a hilarious exchange when Willow Palin's friend, Andy, shows up. Palin: "This gate -- it's not just for Trig. It's for -- noooo boys go upstairs." Andy awkwardly sidles back to the couch and sits down, staring up at the forbidding elk head. Palin: "She'll be downstairs in a minute. You can text her up there." ("That should do it!" I picture her thinking. "Kids love texting!") At this point, Sarah looks away. In what is perhaps the greatest decision ever made in the history of reality television, the boy decides to amble upstairs, anyway. Palin notices and becomes nervous. You never know what can happen in thirty to sixty seconds! She telephones Willow. You can hear Willow saying something along the lines of "seriously?" Andy skitters back downstairs. He reseats himself on the couch looking up at the forbidding elk head. And, scene.
- Sarah Gets Stuck on a Mountain for 45 Minutes. 45 Full Minutes. Sarah climbs, gets stuck, sits there on the rock shouting "What about my legs? Where do I put 'em?" "Well, then my legs get stuck underneath this overhang!" There is a brief pause. Then we see the caption "45 minutes later." Sarah has not moved. She is still in the same position. Todd, meanwhile, appears to be enjoying this immensely.
The guide also seems to be enjoying this immensely. "That's what all those gymnastics are good for!" he shouts. "I was not a cheerleader or a gymnast," Sarah Palin shoots back. If she ever becomes President Palin, I can imagine a similar moment playing out in a time of foreign policy crisis. "That's what all that foreign policy experience is good for!" one of her aides will say. "I do not have any foreign policy experience!" Palin will shoot back. Then forty-five minutes will pass without any apparent movement.
I sympathize, of course. I am always the person who winds up stuck in the middle of the rock climb. Sometimes this happens to me just climbing stairs to people's walk-up apartments. "I'll just sit here!" I say. "You go on! Take my axe with you!" I have all the upper-body strength of Woodrow Wilson. This is why I never go anywhere or do anything. For me, the outdoors is what you walk through to get from the car to the Starbucks. I think Palin and I are more alike than different in this respect. So watching her cling helplessly to the side of a mountain expressing remorse for her hubris in the face of a camera crew is an especially hilarious spectacle.
Before watching this, I would have likened Palin, the outdoorsy, folksy, big-stick-totin' country gal, to Teddy Roosevelt. But after watching her climb, I'd say she's more like Franklin.
"How do we get down?" she asks at the end. I hope the entire second episode is just her attempting to get down! If so, it will be riveting television!
Regardless, I can't wait. As Sarah says, " I don't think that I have been that scared or that challenged in a long time."
| November 15, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories: Petri, Reality? Television, Tea Party, Top Lists | Tags: Alaska, Sarah Palin, bears
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