Do the Alaskan Bush People get paid? We asked! Read our interview with the Brown family.
On Tuesday, May 6, at 10pm ET/PT, Discovery Channel introduces new reality series Alaskan Bush People, which follows the nine-member Brown family as they journey 1,500 north in the Alaskan wilderness to build a one-room cabin on their new land before the winter and the darkness bring cold and death.
Season 2 Recaps: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Wild Times | Episode 9 | Episode 10 | Episode 11 | Episode 12 | Episode 13 | Episode 14 | SHARK WEEK! | Episode 15 | Episode 16 | Lost Footage | The Wild Year
Now, when I was first told about the premise of Alaskan Bush People, I was expecting perhaps a depiction of some authentic Inuit culture or something. But this is a Discovery Channel reality show, so instead, the Brown family is more like those stoners you knew in high school, though far, far more motivated and industrious.
The patriarch is Billy Brown, who with his wife, Ami, has seven kids. The first five are boys (I’ll get to them in a bit). Billy and Ami chose to live in the Alaskan wilderness, and they’ve raised their family in a remote cabin, which, unfortunately, was built on public land and burned to the ground by the government. Harsh.
So the family is looking for a new homestead, and they’ve purchased some cheap land even more in the middle of nowhere than their previous land in the middle of nowhere. They pack up the SUV and a trailer and head from Ketchikan or thereabouts 1,500 miles north to near Chitina or thereabouts.
Now, about the boys. They’re the real color of the show. The one called Bear appears to be the most interesting. He’s EXTREME! He runs everywhere. He climbs trees … to the TOP! “One of my main skills is my extremeness, actually,” he boasts. He’s sort of like a hybrid of snowboarder Shaun White and Saturday Night Live‘s Mr. Peepers. The oldest son is Matt, who says, “Fishing is both my best quality and one of my worst flaws.” (Oh, the paradox that is fishing!) Gabe is the strong-backed, weak-minded one. The boy is an ox. “On a strength level, how strong I am would be pretty darn strong,” he says, unable to numerically quantify things. Noah is the MacGyver of the bunch, and can fix anything. Anything, that is, except his bum ankle that makes him all gimpy. Bam Bam (his grandpappy liked The Flintstones) is the bespectacled one and he seems to have managerial skills that may someday allow him to work in the one Arby’s location in Alaska.
On the route to Chitina, the trailer blows a tire, which stops their journey (and just grinds this whole TV series to a halt after 10 whole minutes). So they haul the SUV into the nearest area inhabited by humans to get a comparably sized tire, leaving two of the boys behind to build a fire and defend the trailer against a distant, disinterested moose. “The sun is literally falling,” says Bear, whose extremeness is figuratively boundless. Hours later, the rest of the family returns with the replacement tire, which is just a tad too big and requires someone to bend the hell out of the fender to install. Nice work, MacGyver boy.
The family arrives at their land the following day, and they get to work building a temporary “trapper shack” that will give them shelter and protection at least through the night. The sun is literally falling and so are the temperatures, and the trapper shack is kind of half-assed and plastic covered. They’re leaving someone outside with a shotgun for “bear watch” shifts, while the rest of the family gets their sleeping arrangements set. This involves digging “hip holes” and “head holes” into the dirt. Take note, good people at Sealy.
Some of the boys have to go and “bury the meat” (stop laughing!). No, friends, this is literally burying the meat in the ground so it stays cold.
Construction continues the following day. Our dear narrator teases us with the promise of “a deadly mistake.” A tree falls and nearly takes out Bam Bam, but other than being pissed off at his brothers, he’s perfectly fine. The deadly mistake resulted in nothing. Already the show is lying to us.
With the trapper shack built, they can finally start working on the foundation of their permanent shack. But it turns out that the trees in the area ain’t no damned good and are too scrawny for cabin construction. Billy now needs lumber, and is forced to go into the nearest town, Chitina, to try and find someone with wood who is willing to barter. (BTW, everyone in these parts has guns, and they spend most of their free time shooting at street signs.)
Billy and one of the boys head to Uncle Tom’s Tavern, which looks like it might be the Mos Eisley of Alaska, and meet a few of the locals. Billy explains his situation. The locals laugh at him, telling him that it gets really cold out there and he’d better get his house built soon, because that’s the kind of local wit and wisdom you can only get at Uncle Tom’s Tavern in Chitina. The barkeep knows a lumber guy, but the lumber guy’s price is $10,000 (lumber guy has acting lessons to pay for). Billy barters with lumber guy, offering caribou and the indentured servitude of his five male offspring. Lumber guy eventually accepts, probably because the show’s producers told him to, and because the death of nine people is not something you want on your conscience.
And so, what do you think of Alaskan Bush People? Are the Browns rugged individualists or nutjobs? And, more importantly, do you care enough to keep watching this show to see if winter comes and they’re forced to eat the camera crew?
Photo: Credit: Discovery Channel