Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cynical Buddha's Alaska: The (Missing) Television Series

Over the past decade, it seems as if there have been more camera crews and production companies in Alaska than there are residents in the state. It seems to have started with "Deadliest Catch" becoming a hugely popular show; we landlubbers in the lower 48 were fascinated to see the crazy conditions on the "Vast Bering Sea" (said in Mike Rowe's deep voice, of course) and to see the stories of the guys who literally risked their lives for a payday and for our crab dinners.

After that show grew exponentially in popularity, the cameras descended. Today, when I used Google to start a search with the words "tv shows about," Alaska is the second response -- after witches and before college, lawyers, and families. And don't get me started about how bad most lawyer shows are in terms of authenticity.  I can only imagine was Alaskans think about all the shows set there. 

Actually, it's not hard to imagine. Alaska has apparently handed out over $40 million in state subsidies for TV and movie shows to shoot in the state, as this LA Times Op-Ed mentions. That article points out the obvious -- reality TV is not very real at all:
Here in Alaska, TV crews have been everywhere the last few years, clutching scripts for "unscripted" shows and handing out confidentiality agreements, asking us to play along.
All of this lead-in is to highlight a massive package of cards that Cynical Buddha -- the proprietor of six different websites (13 Tenets of Cynicalbuddhism, Collector's Crack, Long Way from Lambeau, Miles from Miller, The Robin Yount Collector, and The Rollie Fingers Collector) -- sent my way. I feel like someone at these production companies should have picked up on tracking CB and his blogging long ago...

At any rate, how about a weird theme list of Alaska-based TV shows mixed with Brewers from the Buddha?  After all, as that Op-Ed mentions, 29 "unscripted" programs applied for the film subsidy in 2014, so we have plenty of options to choose from.

1.  The Alaskan Bush People

Reality TV is generally less real than fans of shows would want us to believe. The show "Alaskan Bush People" was or is even less real. This was billed as a show about "a newly discovered family who was born and raised wild . . . [and has] lived this way for decades." In reality, two of the members of the show's cast pleaded guilty on November 19 to filing false claims for funds on their Alaskan Permanent Fund Division applications (the money the state gives to full-time residents for every year they remain in Alaska).

I'm shocked that they are a fraud.  Shocked.

The only card that could go with these fraudsters is this 1982 Donruss Randy Lerch card on which he is inaccurately identified as being a member of the Braves.  While there are a few players who suited up for the Brew Crew that could have been called frauds, this error card is a welcome addition to my collection.

The Alaskan Bush People, though, can stay in their little hovels.

2.  Flying Wild Alaska

From a fraud to one of the more likeable families to appear on television, we have the Tweto family and their airline Era Alaska.  Discovery Channel kept them around for thirty-one episodes, perhaps on the strength of the two attractive-for-Discovery sisters, Ayla and Ariel Tweto.

From unlikely sex symbols to an unlikely fan favorite -- Rob Deer:

Deer was never a star, but he did help fill that power-hitting-and-don't-give-a-damn hole in the outfield left by Gorman Thomas. Milwaukee and Wisconsin loves their blue-collar heroes -- see, e.g., John Kuhn.

It's always good to add an O-Pee-Chee card to my collection. I'd do a Lambeau Leap for that.

3.  Bering Sea Gold, Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice & Gold Rush

All of these shows air on Discovery, which is just an amazing surprise. Discovery should be renamed the "Swamps and Alaska Channel" (especially with MythBusters winding up). Alaska's gold is more difficult to mine thanks to the local conditions, and this is especially true on the Bering Sea. 

I'm guessing that Thom Beers -- the executive producer for the Bering Sea shows and for Deadliest Catch -- probably got the idea for his two gold shows by sitting in a bar in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and wondering what other boats were in the docks there other than fishing boats. When he got his answer, he got his new show idea.

Apropos of nothing other than being on the show, here's Eroica captain Emily Riedel on a polar plunge:

Gold? Did someone say gold?

CB sent me several Robin Younts that I needed for my collections -- whether for the team collection or for my Robin Yount collection. That includes the Leaf Black Gold checklist at the top of this almost-pyramid of Yount cards.  The card just below the checklist is from this year's update set as an insert. Otherwise, we have three Upper Deck/SP cards and a Leaf Century card.  I needed all of these other than this bottom card for my Yount collection.

4.  Buying Alaska

This show on Destination America follows a familiar formula for real estate TV shows -- such as House Hunters and House Hunters International on HGTV or Buying Hawaii or Buying the Bayou or Buying the Beach or Property Brothers or...well, you get the picture. The featured buyer always brings a friend or spouse or girlfriend along to help choose which house of three that the buyer should purchase. 

These shows are pretty much entirely fake as well. When my wife and I purchased our house, we used my wife's college roommate as our agent. Jenny is a great agent here in Atlanta, and she and others in her brokerage have been approached in the past to see if they would be willing to have one of their clients as the featured buyer. The setup is this: the buyer already has purchased a home, and the agent "shows" the buyer two other properties that oftentimes are not even for sale. Especially on House Hunters, a tip off was that the one the people had purchased was empty when the buyers looked at it while the others had furniture.  Yup, not "reality."

Here's Jenny now:

Cards to go with this?  Let's go hunting internationally:

These great David Nilsson cards are now ones I do not have to hunt for myself. Unlike those house hunting shows, you won't see me looking for two other versions of each of these cards in the dime boxes either.

Okay...last one:

5.  Alaska: The Last Frontier

This show has been on Discovery for five seasons already. This show follows the Kilcher family's adventures near Homer, Alaska. The Kilchers are related to musician Jewel (whose full name is Jewel Kilcher, as some of you may know). Also, two members of the family have been charged with using a helicopter to hunt black bear in 2014; it is illegal to use a helicopter to hunt in Alaska.

To go with's a scan dump! 

That is a lot of great Brewer goodness there. To be fair, I could have gone on and on -- after all, there are dozens of Alaska reality shows -- but college football has started for the day and my Dawgs are playing already!

My thanks go out to Cynical Buddha for sorting through his duplicates and hooking me up with literally dozens of cards that I needed.


  1. I've heard that Alaska has great views, decent people and great culture.

    The fact that it has "people" means that I'll pass and go to Antarctica instead.

  2. I've been to Alaska twice. It's a pretty cool place. This picture is the most accurate representation I could come up with...

    There are tons of bald eagles all over the place and the rivers are filled with salmon that are running and half-dead. Very interesting place.

  3. That was one heck of a scan dump! The Darrell Porter card is excellent!

  4. I was trying to pack that flat rate as full as possible. I'm bummed I didn't have more Yount doubles for you. Funny you paired everything with Alaskan reality shows. I use to work out on fishing boats, groundfish, crab, and scallops. I use to see all those Deadliest Catch guys all over the place in Dutch Harbor, even met Mike Rowe one time. I also use to live in Haines and left for a job in Anchorage just before they started filming Gold Rush. I could go on, but you know. I will say Alaska is pretty awesome. I moved up 18 years ago for a job and never left. And I know I have a few more boxes of Brewers doubles, but they're buried in storage for now.