timberland store locator ‘The Last Alaskans’ might be Alaska’s first real reality TV show

timberland earth keepers ‘The Last Alaskans’ might be Alaska’s first real reality TV show

FAIRBANKS Filming a reality TV show set in Alaska is by no means a new idea. In fact, it might just be the most played out setting on television, right up there with procedural cop dramas and superhero revivals.

For people who live in Alaska especially, the constant bombardment by shows claiming to illustrate what life is “really like” in the 49th State can be overwhelming. The problem is only exacerbated by the fact that each of them seems to contort itself into Escher esque knots trying to trick viewers into believing false reality.

Even in overplayed genres like superhero movies and police dramas, though, there are occasional bright spots. Many critics lauded HBO’s “True Detective” as one of the best detective shows in years, and the comic book based movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” was widely regarded by critics and viewers alike as a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre.

Like those two critical successes, Animal Planet’s new show “The Last Alaskans” makes its appearance in a crowded, and not too highly regarded, category. And like the aforementioned works, “The Last Alaskans” brings new life to a monotonous genre.

The show bills itself as a look into the lives of three couples and one man who spend much of their year in the wilds of the northern Interior living the subsistence lifestyle. Unlike some other shows cough, “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” cough the families portrayed in “The Last Alaskans” live dozens or hundreds of miles from their nearest neighbors when hunting and trapping.

The show sets itself in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, about 300 miles north of Fairbanks. The federal government prohibits human settlement in the refuge, but, according to the show’s opening sequence, the four families are among the last seven remaining of those who were grandfathered in to the policy.

The show followsBob Harte,Heimo and Edna Korth, Tyler and Ashley Selden, and Ray and Cindy Lewis and their three daughters. The names will sound familiar to many in Fairbanks, since they are often in Fairbanks when not hunting or working their traplines up north.

Harte, the Korths and the Lewis family have all spent decades in the area, but for the Seldens, the experience is still rather new. Seven years ago, Tyler and Ashley were able to move into the usually restricted area of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge by purchasing a trapline from someone looking to leave the subsistence lifestyle. They also have a cabin north of the Yukon on the southern border of ANWR.

Tyler and Ashley moved to Alaska from Outside with the specific intent of living off the land. Like many who choose to live the subsistence lifestyle, they were originally skeptical of the film crew’s intent.

“I just said, you know, if it’s just going to be another run of the mill reality show don’t even bother . they’re just a joke what I’ve heard about them and stuff,” Tyler said. “They just seem to make caricatures of these people and their lives and stuff, and it’s just disrespectful at the worst and naive at the best.”

The production crew that wanted to do the show led by John Jones was able to convince them, however.

“They convinced us through the meetings we had with them and they wanted to avoid that kind of thing and to create a respectable show that portrayed the lifestyle in an accurate way and wasn’t just trying to drum up stuff to create shock value,” Tyler said.

Jones, the show’s executive producer, said with the show they set out specifically to avoid that sort of pitfall.

“None of the talent wanted to be portrayed in a sort of Kardashian kind of style,” Jones said. “They wanted us to take this seriously, and we assured them that we intended to take this seriously, make this more of an Alaska 360 approach.”

Jones said he and his team conceived of the idea in the first place as a break from the usual form of Alaska reality television and American television in general.

“Everything gets louder and faster and louder and faster on TV, and to me this series is sort of turning off the motor and taking out the sail, and that can still be entertaining,” Jones said. “We set out to . embrace the isolation and the cost of isolation embrace the beauty.”

With those goals in mind, “The Last Alaskans seems to have succeeded wildly.

At the same time a rebellion against reality TV and an example of its real potential, “The Last Alaskans” provides a refreshingly honest scene of the families’ lives.

The show’s slow pace mirrors the reality of life in the Bush, where a person can spend an entire day working on a single task. At the same time, the show is able to generate audience interest through more creative means than simply adding dramatic reality TV music to high stakes scenes.

When a grizzly bear takes to wandering the area around Tyler and Ashley’s cabin, the stakes are clear. The viewer doesn’t need to be clued in with ominous bass. The slow pace of the show also allows Jones and his team to bring forth one of their other goals: showing Alaska’s natural beauty.

Even with everything else stripped away, “The Last Alaskans” is exceptionally well shot. Through the use of high frame rate and high definition cameras, the crews are able to capture beautiful shots of the land and the families they follow.

The show’s beauty is accentuated additionally through the savvy use of drones to capture shots of the Alaska backcountry unseen before in reality television.

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timberland store locator 'The Last Alaskans' might be Alaska's first real reality TV show