The Alaska Experiment-- new Discovery Show airing Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. Episode 1-- "What did We Get Ourselves Into"
Mini-cap: The show starts out introducing four teams who will spend three months in the Alaska bush "living" off the land. Each team is situated in a different type of terrain and will experience different challenges. At the end, there's some kind of prize, but I forgot what it was. Did I mention that I'm easily distracted? Look, bear scat!
Overall, it looks like a tall order. The four teams will battle the environment, dodge bears, learn important skills, and most importantly, remind you, the viewer, how lucky you are to be on your couch back in civilization.
Starting Out: Each team is dropped off somewhere between 6-9 miles away from their eventual base camp that's waiting for them with all the supplies they're going to get (unless they bail and call upon the 'emergency rescue and survival experts' lurking immediately behind the camera). Three teams hike, one team kayaks. Each team flies in with an expert Alaska bush guide. None of the teams seem to pay particular attention to the guide.
Icy Bay, Camp: Riou Point: Described as "an extremely remote fly-in location formed by the retreat of the Guyot, Yahtse and Tyndall glaciers over the past 95 years," this camp is the ultimate destination for Dennis Wise and his two daughters, Jennifer and Carolyn. The three make it to camp relatively easily. At 51, Dennis is described as a "retired manufacturing worker" from Kansas. Here in the heartland, that's affectionately known as "Yep, I took the buy-out, how 'bout you?" Dennis' bio reveals he's also a part-time worker at Bass Pro Shops. He seems to know a little bit about what he's doing. His daughters are a different story. Before long, they're both screeching at him in their tiny cabin, but not after eating most of the peanut butter and munching on raw potatoes. At some point, one of the daughters refers to the others' "fat ass." Ladies, with rationing skills like yours, you will be yearning for the days you were referred to as "fatass."
Icy Bay, Camp: Back Bay: On the other end of Icy Bay is Back Bay. This camp, also known as "Bear Alley," is reached by sea kayak by Jeff Frederick and Elizabeth Widmeyer. Jeff is a 35 year old environmental consultant with lots of camping experience. Elizabeth is a 23 year old wastewater engineer with lots of energy. She probably likes reminding Jeff that when he went to his senior prom, she was entering her first year at school... pre-school, that is. They seem to have their heads on pretty straight, but will be spending three months in a canvas wall-tent with a lot of bears lurking around. I've spent many a traumatic summer in wall-tents like those, and let me tell you, they don't muffle screams that well. So Jeff and Elizabeth will either have to be a quiet couple, or they'll get visited by bears in the next three months. The show ends with Jeff grabbing a salmon with his bare hands. Next thing you know, he'll be noodling for catfish with his cousin Jethro.
Upper Chitina River Valley, Camp: Flower Lake: We've seen contestants from the heartland and New York. Now it's time to see the obligatory Californians. Tim Wagner, Allan Aujero, and Jasmine Kung comprise a multi-cultural group of outdoor enthusiasts. I can't help but wonder, however, how used to freezing their asses off they are. In any event, they make the two day trek to the cabin pretty easily (probably thanks to their extensive Jazzercize routines), which includes a bog-hike. As someone who's actually hiked through a bog with a canoe and a pack on his back, I can say these three must have buns of steel in order to make the trip. What they don't have, are effective fishing skills. The last scene shows them trying to catch salmon by throwing logs at them. Sheeeit-- any good old boy would tell you it's much more effective to snag them behind the gills with a treble-hook, and hope the game warden doesn't happen by.
Upper Chitina River Valley, Camp: Hawkins Glacier: Bernice and Greg Pierson are the obligatory married couple. Bernice is an "adventure racer," while Greg is a mason. Greg is also majorly out of shape. While he and Bernie are from California, they clearly don't jazzercize. Bernie and Greg take two days to make it to their fishing cabin. Bernie mentions towards the end of their hike that it's "mentally draining." That's a polite way of saying that Greg is complaining a lot. Greg is a mess-- dehydrated, cramping, and 30 pounds overweight.
Bernie and Greg end up settling in their cabin and hiking a ways to a glacial stream to fill up a five gallon jerry-can of water after Mr. Alaska Guide says "If you don't haul your water, you won't have any." Let's hope that Greg shapes up, or they're going to be in trouble.
Closing Comments: If I was ever going to be on a TV show, this would be the one I'd chose. I spent three summers as a fishing guide in Northern Minnesota and Manitoba, and a lot of these scenes took me back. First, I was shocked at how often these guys took their shoes off and walked around on the rocks. Apparently, they'd rather have dry boots than gashes on their feet. Second, I remember what it was like to dodge bears, although they were black bears, not grizzlies. I'm looking forward to this show, but I'm seeing some foolishness that doesn't bode well. The most likely to succeed, but also the most challenged, are the couple in the wall tent. Everyone else has four walls and a roof. These two just have canvas, which doesn't do much when the temperature drops to 20 degrees or lower.
That concludes the first episode. Stay tuned for more.