Is Alaskan Bush People fake? Does it matter?

Alaskan Bush People Fake Ryan Berenz

Do the Alaskan Bush People get paid? We asked! Read our interview with the Brown family.

Alaskan Bush People Season 1 Recaps: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | The Wild Life

Season 2 Recaps: Episode 1 | Episode 2Episode 3 | Episode 4Episode 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

Alaskan Bush People Fake

“You do not choose Dance Moms,” Lori Acken once said. “It chooses you.”

Lori writes brilliantly about top-flight shows with interviews of stars high atop the A list, yet she could not unburden herself of the Abby Lee Miller albatross. Her weekly recaps of a terrible show about generally unpleasant people were wildly successful, but I did not envy her.

In early 2014, our editorial staff was looking for the next Dance Moms. We had success covering brand-new, somewhat obscure reality shows on cable networks (regrettably, no one cared about quality shows on the broadcast networks). The idea was to try to get on the ground floor of niche shows that few media outlets were going to cover. The pond is smaller, but we’d be the only ones fishing in it.

Our editor in chief, Barb Oates, has a keen eye for what reality TV shows and personalities tend to draw interest (i.e. controversy). She attended the TV critics press tour and was there for a panel Animal Planet held for this new Alaskan Bush People show about backwoods Billy Brown, his wife, and their seven kids. Barb said the Bush People were a hoot, and one of us should write a recap of the premiere episode. Discovery Channel (the show got promoted to the mothership) had sent us a link to an online screener, and a quick recap of the highlights seemed like something I could bang out quickly.

I watched the first episode and was bored within 10 minutes (the flat tire). Within 40 minutes I was disappointed (the tree almost falling on Bam). And by the end of the episode, I was skeptical (Lumber Guy Rick). The Browns didn’t seem all that “bush” with their SUV, using milled lumber to build their house and running back into town for everything. I learned nothing about living in the wild other than burying meat and digging “hip holes” where you sleep. And, on the most fundamental level, it made no sense that someone who truly wants to live off the grid in the Alaskan wilderness would desire to put himself and his family on a reality TV show, one of the aforementioned grid’s waste products. I posted a mildly snarky recap, relieved that I wouldn’t need to do another one, because nobody was going to watch this show, at least not for very long.

And then Alaskan Bush People chose me.

I was shocked that people were not only watching this show, but they had strong opinions about it. Many of the commenters on that original recap weren’t convinced that this family was real, that their accents were fake, that their clothes weren’t practical for the bush, etc. Many other commenters loved the Browns and wanted to live with them, pray for them or write them checks. I was amused that people got worked up over Not Yet Another Alaska Docudrama Show. And I was pissed that I would have to keep watching it and writing about it.

(Digression! That’s the media culture now. Everything has to be EXTREME to break through the noise. Whether it’s extremely good or extremely bad does not matter. You don’t get excited about TV shows that are OK. You don’t share YouTube videos about sensible people doing rational things. You get excited about stuff that is legitimately AWESOME or stuff that is so bad that it becomes AWESOME in its badness. Guess which one applies to Alaskan Bush People.)

Alaskan Bush People Dumpster Fire

I snarky snark snarked my way through two more episodes, trying to appreciate the show on an ironic level. It wasn’t until “Fight or Flight” that I had my Plato’s Cave moment. The “shooting” incident marked a point in which ABP had gone from a contrived docuseries to something outright deceptive. A commenter tipped me off to Zaz Hollander’s investigative piece in the Alaska Dispatch News, and I’d never see the show the same way again. You can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube. I went from wondering what was fake to just assuming everything was fake. And then in June Discovery aired “The Wild Life” special in which the Browns protested too much that they were real and tried to explain the show’s inconsistencies. Billy backed off his “government burned our cabin down” statement, so now you have cause to doubt the very reason for this show existing in the first place.

Discovery couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me if the show was going to be picked up for Season 2, but I assumed it was. A few months passed with no word. And then in late October, commenter Talkeetnachris tipped us to this:

Billy brown was just charged with stealing over $13000 filing fraudulent PFD claims in Alaska. His near life will be in prison. A few other family members were also charged. This guy and his family are frauds.

The Browns crossed from simple, harmless reality-TV smoke-and-mirrors land into the realm of criminal fraud accusations. And these aren’t just your everyday, run-of-the-mill, bad-check-cashing fraud allegations. This is fraud that, if proved, collapses the entire Brown Family Universe. I prematurely pronounced Alaskan Bush People dead and canceled. No way Discovery was going to continue with it after this, right?

I was wrong. (FRAUD!) The ADN again had the story. New episodes of ABP were being filmed, but no Season 2 premiere date was announced. I maintained the believe-it-when-I-see-it attitude, but then the announcement came and Season 2 premiered Jan. 2.

Season 2 was brutal to watch. At the end of Season 1, I expected ABP, if it returned, to be even more absurd. And it was. What I didn’t expect was Season 2 to be IDENTICAL TO SEASON 1 BUT OVER TWICE AS LONG! We suffered through eight episodes to only get to the MIDSEASON FREAKIN’ FINALE? Maybe we’ll discover all of Season 2 was just a dream Billy had while comatose. My guess is we’re going to get maybe two more episodes like “The Wild Life” with unaired footage and more half-assed explanations of how everything is real and we’re all idiots.

That’s how we got to now. Thanks for getting this far. Now what?

There’s been a changing of the guard at Discovery Channel, and it may determine the future of ABP. Discovery networks have taken a beating over their pseudoscience shows like those about mermaids, Megalodon and real scientists getting duped into contributing to fake Shark Week shows. New Discovery Channel president Rich Ross seems to understand this, and appears to be taking the network in a different direction by expanding its slate of scripted programming, particularly history-based dramas. Ross fielded questions about that at the TV Critics Association Winter Press Tour in January, as reported by Broadcasting & Cable:

[Ross] also addressed the network’s current slate of unscripted programming, signaling that a shift in tone is imminent. Asked whether projects such as Mermaids and other documentaries with fictional elements will continue to have a place at the network, Ross said, “It’s not whether I’m a fan of it. I don’t think it’s actually right for Discovery, for Discovery Channel, and it’s something that I think has in some ways run its course. I don’t think you’ll be sitting here next year asking me a question about something I put on, whether it’s a series or a special, that that’s the dilemma.”

Ross pointed to another new hire — that of John Hoffman as executive VP of documentaries and specials, announced Thursday morning — when fielding a question about criticism from the scientific community about Discovery’s Shark Week programming.

“[Hoffman] has a long history of telling great and authentic stories and working with scientists and doctors and everybody in between,” Ross said. “It was not just a signal. It was a message that it’s very important to us and very important to me that when people are telling stories and delivering information that it’s true and that it can be entertaining as well.”

Based on that, I imagine Ross leading an angry mob of Discovery Channel execs to chase the Brown family off Chicago Bears Island and off the network’s lineup for good. Then there’s this in the news today:

Discovery’s Gold Rush was the number one program in all of television among men for the eighth consecutive week while Alaskan Bush People was the number one program on cable for women on Friday, February 20 in L+3. “The Brown family and everyone’s favorite gold miners from Gold Rush on Friday nights have continued to build an audience with viewers of all ages,” Denise Contis, EVP of production and development, tells Cynopsis. “We’re excited so many men, women, and their families have invited Discovery Channel into their homes each Friday night.”

Ratings competition is fierce. Discovery Communications is a business, not a public service for the common good. Squeezing every last ratings point out of low-budget unscripted fare is good business for them, at least in the short term. I don’t see how Discovery jeopardizing the credibility of its cornerstone Shark Week franchise or cramming its schedule with phony Bush People benefits its brand over time.

Let’s shoot down the “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it!” argument. If the viewers who hated on the show stopped watching, the audience would be a third of what it is and the show would be canceled. There’s as much fun and entertainment to be had in hating a TV show, personality or character as there is in legitimately enjoying one. [Update: Watch this analysis debunking the Don’t Like, Don’t Watch argument]

TV critics and bloggers fittingly call it “hate-watching.” This is how the Kardashians remain in the spotlight. It’s better to be hated than to be ignored. Your hate has made them powerful.

 

HatersGonnaWatch

Shows like ABP are designed to be absurd. Doing and saying stupid things, and building failed huts out of plastic wrap are all part of the Brown family’s act. Eventually their act will wear thin (if it hasn’t already) and they won’t be worth hatin’ on any more. The show will be canceled and the Browns will go to wherever they go when they’re not pretending to live in the bush, or wherever the Alaska justice system determines they should go.

(Digression! Of course, ABP getting canceled is not in my best professional interest. Someone actually pays me to watch it and write about it. Real money, too! Stuff I can use to buy food that my children will refuse to eat.)

Suspension of disbelief allows us to immerse ourselves into dramatic works. I have intelligent friends who love pro wrestling. It’s perfectly acceptable to watch and enjoy the Browns as they’re depicted onscreen for an hour a week. Maybe you think Bear is a riot. Maybe you really want the boys to settle down with some nice bush girls. Maybe you’re really happy Ami finally got her home with an ocean view. More power to you. Just stay off the Internet.

I can’t ignore the implausibility. I can’t invest in the Browns, because I’m not biting on anything they’re casting onscreen. And everything I’ve read about their lives offscreen just makes me pity those viewers who’ve swallowed hook, line and sinker. The Browns will barter them for more dental work.

Next week, check out my treatise on the unequivocal authenticity of MTV’s Pimp My Ride.

41 Comments

  1. I like the show but I’m really sick and tired of the recapping after every commercial they show the same stuff over and over again. Let’s just get on with the show.

  2. Well – where to begin – I have to admit “They have a show and I don’t” – slight jealousy there, however the inability to even fake being outdoorsman type people is amazing. Leather jackets? Cloth pants and sweatshirts? They would freeze in a NY minute. The cleaning of the deer was the CLEANEST cleaning I had ever witnessed. Donde esta blood? Yet I watch the bleeping show, how sad is that!
    Carefully view the episodes when some sort of construction is going on – if they “have built more houses than they can remember” – a skill or two would have been acquired. I see no redeemable skillset in any of them in regards to construction.
    And new tools (shovels, hammers, etc) appear in some shots. I believe I saw the label still on a shovel in one scene – as they forgot to remove the label when they picked it up at Wal-Mart.
    When you watch or read about real outdoors people, these folks look a bit thin on the ‘experience’ scale, although Billy appears to be gaining weight in the ‘bush’ on any other scale.
    My wife and I are into the tiny house movement and all- and in a few years we will be semi-retiring to Maine, to build our own ‘cabin in the woods’ – using the real skills I have gained over a lifetime of building small buildings – and even though we will not be in the ‘bush’ we will be more authentic than these clowns on any given day.
    I hope to find a job there that pays so much money in 2 days I can afford a new woodstove, metalbestos, chimney pipe, flashing, a pad for beneath the stove — tongue in cheek there folks…

    • LOL!! I agree 🙂 can’t stand how they want us to believe they build anything, when I know for a fact, everything & all things were built by the locals. Oh & the deer was killed by the mayor of the island & was given to them as a gift…it’s all on reality TV scandals…they’re as fake as can be. p.s. Billy has a book on Amazon for a whooping $14.95!!

  3. They have no property in their name, so how can they be “Bush People”? You have to OWN LAND to build a home, this is how it’s done. Discovery has LEASED this land only for the show. If these people were true bush people, THEN WHY DO THEY BARLEY OWN A POT.
    WAKE UP PEOPLE, THIS IS ALL FAKE!!!!!!

  4. Thank god this show isn’t a beauty contest because nobody would win, this show if that is what you want to call it is an insult to white people, white trash peice’s of shit. They all should be lined up against a brick wall and executed. If you had to support your family like a real man billy brown you couldn’t get a job even selling peanuts on a train. Your a peice of shit billy brown.

  5. White trash! Nothing but white trash, from not having a pot to piss in to being on TV. It amazes me that if those peice’s of shit are so called bush people, then how did they no that this show even existed? I would love to go hunting in the area that they live in, that dump they built and have a stray round hit that peice of shit loser billy brown in the head. From rags to riches for being nothing but a white trash peice of shit, only in America.

    • Did you know these fake white trash are getting 75K an episode?! Pure scamming by them & Discovery Channel…& to think before I knew all this I actually thought it was real? What the hell was I thinking? Until I learned a lot from the locals & the selfies & shots of the boys in town everyday!!!

  6. Most likely the show is half fake, half real. It is 1000 % better than Naked and Afraid reality show. Talk about the mentality of the human race being off the right and moral track! That show is not fit to be on tv let alone an educational channel! People watch naked and afraid to see bare ass. Wow what a thrill watching bare asses full of crud and mud play in the swamps. I like Alaskan Bush People. The state of Alaska is breath taking. Better than gross bare asses if you ask me!

    • You talk about moral, the Browns are thieves. They stole from us hard working tax payers. Google their name and you will see that this is ALL FAKE. That’s OK because here soon my tax dollars will still be supporting BEHIND PRISON BARS…… When it’s a federal crime, you do every single day of your sentence..

  7. Shawn Connerey wanna be’s! Where did these people learn how to talk. Daddy talks like a southerner. Mom talks like a proper lady. And the kids watched the rock too many times. Fuck them!

  8. This is the biggest joke of a show I’ve ever seen! How do you feed that many people in the bush? How do you be so unprepared? How do you lack so many survival skills? I’m sick of bullshit TV shows for the city slickers. I hope city people enjoy these shows. People who grew up in the woods know what a joke this is. Please take it off the air before I vomit in my mouth!!

  9. Are there actually people this stupid?
    Hey Discovery channel I’ll be happy to take your cash for being an ass.

  10. I think they are real. They are living off the land. They are smart. They are cute. Bear is funny. The old lady if she had more teeth would be a model. Billy is a role model for all of us.

    • You can’t be serious? A model ? What the fuck have you been smoking ? Crack. A model that’s funny. A model.

    • If you think Bear is funny, you must be a simpleton. There is NOTHING cute or funny about these people. THEY ARE THIEVES AND FRAUDS!!!!!!!! I look forward to them going TO PRISON for stealing tax payer money, MY MONEY.. Then how cute will they look?? Maybe cute enough to have a butt-buddy in prison..

      • Really? You are so bitter because people make more money than you…you will watch “Naked and Afraid” or the “Kardashians” but you are pissed about the Browns? That’s ignorance for you…!

    • Are you on drugs? Go to reality scandals.com read & view every piece of scamming billy has done & how they’ve never lived in the bush! Everything has been made for them, hunted for them & paid by DC idiots! Wake up..

  11. Sad that Discovery Channel feels they need to put stuff like this on. I always had my children watch it thru the yrs, I’m glad they are grown. I wouldn’t have my grandchildren or anyone else watch. It is sad to see money means more than fact.

  12. If you are a producer and you make shows like this piece of shit, you should have your head crushed by a big rock.
    Fuck you very much..

  13. Fake is too nice a word, this show is stupid and ridiculous. These criminal fools wouldn’t last a week in the real bush. The episode where they brought in the single girls was fake, one of them is a married police officer. What women would want to be around these dirty un-washed bush people? These people are welfare frauds and grifters who move frequently to keep from getting arrested. They are smart enough to rip off Discovery Channel. I’m sure they have already scammed and stolen everything they can from the area they are currently operating in. They stay in a hotel in town during filming, which I’m sure Discovery is paying a pretty for penny for. They are taken to the “bush” which is a rural neighborhood for filming or to their “island” Discovery should have more sense than to get involved with these criminals but they knew what they were doing. As long as the money is coming in they will DO WHAT EVER THEY HAVE TO TO KEEP THE MONEY COMING IN.

    • This is such a funny post…I have to laugh. You male machos think it perfectly okay to pay some jerk 12 million a year to throw a football and praise them for getting out of jail free…but you rack someone’s balls by faking a “TV” show. Idiot!! Stop watching it…That’s what Forrest Gump says, “Stupid is as Stupid does!” Just shows all of you the amount of ignorance this generation is…I really marvel at the amount of animosity is shown on this forum…oh? animosity? hatred or dislike…look it up dummy!

    • I don’t see how they are hiding from the Law…they’re on TV with a film crew. I think if the Law wants them, they know where to find them.

  14. So I see APB is coming back in late May. Just when I don’t think it could possibly get worse because they are out of ideas, BAM, they are turning this into: The Bachelor: ABP Edition. Now they have to fly in fake dates to pretend they are going to find wives. My hats off to these the ABP, they could carjack their fans and somehow they would still love and defend them.

  15. Why? I hate those people more than you could imagine, now there trying to find a companion for those stupid kids, just like that other show with those midgets, yes not ( little people ) midgets, big world little people I think it is called the show were zack finds a girl friend, now come on that kid zack is disgusting. I call him a Martian, of course any girl will be there girl friend just to be on tv, those bush people kids are about as stupid as a box of rocks. Do you really think that some decent girl would go out with those peice’s of shit? Like I said anything for there 15 minutes of fame. I can’t believe that the show is back on, why . I was hoping that it was cancelled so that loser billy brown would have to be a real man and get a job, of course what could he do to support his family, he would have every excuse that was ever used so he doesn’t have to work. Loser loser billy brown, you make me vomit!

    • Dave,
      WOW! What happened in your past that causes that kind of hate toward people?
      It’s television, dimwit, that is for entertainment! You seem to have watched every episode…what does that make you? LOL!!

      • lol Twilight….I think his TV is on the Discovery Channel and he doesn’t have anyone living with him that can turn the channel for him and he doesn’t know how to change it himself.

  16. the family is not killing the animals. error in previous post. i don’t understand this. And they don’t really own a home or land. this is all about Discovery.

  17. I’m disappointed in the Discovery Channel. I really like the Brown family but you are lying about them. Why? You should have allowed them to build their home during the warm months and not a last minute thing. You really want us to believe they are in a tent and trappers shack in the clothes they have on and temperatures at freezing or below? And, then they are killing those animals. Why? Discovery has done a good job with other shows but it’s obvious you are not portraying this family honestly and accurately.

  18. ya think my last comment, pissed off the discovery channel employee tasked to moniter social media, to protect their money making show, if discovery is not scanning the net it would be malfeasance to their shareholders, not protecting their name. Proof of this is the fact the new leader of discovery claims changes in store, yet has done no changes, ever known a ceo to be patient in having his staff follow a new corporate direction, no. discovery lies all the time, really think marco polo came with the great wall builders to California to build miles of 3ft stone walls, (calif stone walls were made during the gold rush days to open ground covered with stones, for cattle grazing. the stones were waste and placed on property lines to stop the cows from crossing onto neighbors land, no Chinese, marco polo, u.f.o., sharkweek, connection), but to people who don’t live here discovery has tailered lies to make a show to sell to the foolishly gullible people.

  19. discovery wants a tv show to be successful, they appear to think their wealth is more important than the gullible fans who have unquestioned faith, (can you say talking snakes, talking bushes on fire), so finding suckers in humanity are as easy as finding salt in the pacific ocean. if suckers want to send these con-artists money, O.K., but the method Discovery has stupid people think it is safe to take their non-bush family to live with the bears in harmony, (remember grizzlyman, papa pilgrim), let the gullible kill themselves, going to the bush to live the brown family lifestyle (and level of preparation), is a death sentence for foolishly unprepared morons, (grizzlyman, browns), but when this lower 48 family defrauds the system Alaskans set up to share oil revenue among themselves, the REAL bush families not on tv, who need some stuff to live they cannot produce themselves, (ammo, bunnyboots, guns, salt, local air travel, medical care), cannot survive without, have every right to be offended these turds are lowering their next state issue check, if I ran out of ammo while trying to supply meat for my kids, and found these discovery channel conartists, teach the world a gun shot is how you wake your family, in the bush, while stealing from the fund split up between Alaskans I would take offence that the bullets these Texans, and their English film crews wasted were the ones my lower check couldn’t cover to produce winter food with. I guess if the Alaskans don’t mind dealing with dead families who chase the brown family dream, and are o.k. with lower oil revenue royalties to supply their own family with protein in return for the fame the browns bring their great state, after all the Wasilla crack cocaine problem the sarah palin family fame brought into the light of day, show us people Alaska has scummy lowlifes like everywhere else, like the palin family I can imagine the browns at the discovery “wrap” party, acting like the palin family, screaming things like “do you know who we are”. Riddle methis batman, how many non-Alaskans see the Alaskan pot of oil money as a new revenue source, the browns were proven out of state, but Alaska cant dispute claims from people who say they were in state and eligible, I could,(but wont), say “Alaska give me my check or prove I was somewhere else”, unlike the self promoted, in your face browns, nobody can prove where i was for 6 months and a day, Alaska is about to prove through the browns WERE out of Alaska for 6 months and a day, let your boss lower your income to give conartists, and while the oil companies are not Alaskans bosses, they do give them less money if out of state people swindle that pot of funds for resident alaskans

    • This piece of shit family claimed Alaskan residency just so they could STEAL oil revenue money! They have also been arrested for welfare fraud. And don’t forget the squatting on other peoples land! Fuck the Browns! Inbread fucking white trash motherfuckers!

      • If this is how you talk in every day life…how do you get anybody to listen to you? Your vocabulary makes you sound dumber than them. And oh by the way, its TV. You know? Like entertainment! Hey…remember the Leave it to beaver show? Did you believe in that fairy tale show too? I guess I didn’t realize how ignorant this generation was. If you are so smart and so jealous…figure out a way to get on TV yourself. At least they did….har har har. LOL!

      • Inbred you idiot. If you are going to insult people and call them names, you should at least know how to spell it correctly.

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About Ryan Berenz 2080 Articles
Some things I like (in no particular order): Sports, Star Wars, LEGO, beer, 'The Simpsons' Seasons 1-13, my family and the few friends who are not embarrassed to be seen with me. Why yes, I am very interested in how much you like 'Alaskan Bush People.' #LynxForLife