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Alaska-themed TV glut continues

I customarily pound out the words that fill this space on Friday nights, after my day job as a newspaper reporter ends for the week.

But my addiction to Alaska-based "reality" shows may cause me to reschedule, since Friday nights are also when "Gold Rush Alaska," "Bering Sea Gold" and "Alaska Wing Men" hit the airwaves.  The shows run back-to-back, cutting three hours into my prime column-writing time.

During the rest of the week, I make an effort to take in "Coast Guard Alaska," filmed on and around Kodiak Island, "Alaska: The Last Frontier" featuring the homesteading efforts of singer Jewel's family on a remote stretch of the lower Kenai Peninsula, and "Alaska State Troopers," the National Geographic Channel's cop show that boosted trooper recruit applications by 45 percent.

When they return from hiatus, I'll be tuning in season 6 of "Ice Road Truckers," even though Alaska's Dalton Highway is not an ice road, but an icy gravel road, along with season 8 of "Deadliest Catch" and its crew of chain-smoking fishermen, who make catching crabs an adventure rather than a disease, and season 3 of "Flying Wild Alaska."

As you can see, I'm a sucker for just about anything with the word "Alaska" in it. I could even handle the occasional "Sarah Palin's Alaska," especially if the volume was muted.

I realize that the "reality" shows are edited to condense and highlight any tidbits of real-life drama that may occur during their filming. There's no better example of that than "Gold Rush Alaska," which Variety dismissed as "six burly men with six even burlier beards." But I like the show in spite of the enhanced dramatics. As a person who has spent hundreds of dollars traveling to North Carolina over the years to recover dozens of dollars worth of gold, I enjoy second-guessing the bearded Oregonians' gold-getting skills in Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

But the ever-expanding glut of Alaska-themed shows, which I've written about previously, has me wondering if my fascination with the 49th state will be smothered, if the trend continues.

I may develop an infatuation with Hawaii, if we see shows like:

  • "Project Runway /Alaska" -- A group of bright young designers with civil engineering credentials travel to remote native settlements and mining camps to see who can plan and build the most imaginative, cost-effective landing strips for use by bush pilots.
  • "Top Ref Alaska" -- Follow a crew of traveling high school basketball officials as they go from tournament to tournament during Alaska's endless winter, making calls and dodging balls. Each week, an annoying panel of retired, second-tier NBA players critiques their work.
  • "CSI Dutch Harbor" -- The crime wave in the urban center of the Aleutian Islands may not reach tsunami proportions, but it does require the efforts of criminologists to determine who stabbed whom during barroom arguments and snow machine heists.
  • "Cheechako and the Man" -- Rookie cop from the Lower 48 teams up with veteran Fairbanks P.D. detective in the dead of winter to learn the ropes of crime investigation in interior Alaska's biggest city while dealing with a near lethal case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.


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