Critics have weighed in on Sarah Palin's Alaska, the ex-governor's reality TV show — and they're not quite sure what to make of it. In the first episode, to air on TLC this Sunday, the Alaskan conservative is shown roaming the northern wilderness, socializing with her family, and marveling at a real-life "mama grizzly" and its cubs. But is there a subtext to Palin's Alaskan travelogue, despite its makers' insistence that it is "not a political show"?  (Watch clips from the show)

It's all part of the Sarah 2012 brand: The "folksy moments and free-range metaphors" of this show play into Palin's down-home persona, says James Poniewozik in Time, and will only broaden her appeal to potential voters. "If you were positioning a candidate for office," showing her "amid a rich landscape that embodies frontier optimism and individualism" isn't a bad place to start. Clearly, someone is "hoping for a spin-off: Sarah Palin's America."
"Sarah Palin's Alaska is not a political statement. Right."

It's more about Palin than the presidency: This "warm and fuzzy show" would make a poor presidential branding exercise, says Hank Stuever at The Washington Post. Palin seems more interested in portraying herself as a "brave frontier woman" than an inspiring political thinker or decision-maker. "I don't know if she wants to be president so much as she wants to be this century's answer to Laura Ingalls Wilder."
"In Sarah Palin's Alaska, there are many reasons to watch but too few insights"

Not even Palin knows what her agenda is: "I can't say what Palin is really up to with this show," says Nancy Franklin at The New Yorker. It's undoubtedly "politically loaded entertainment," but in the service of what? We learn little about Alaska "that we didn't learn in elementary school," and nothing about Palin except "she seems to want viewers to think she's conflicted about public life." If that's the case, maybe she should stay in Alaska.