"Sarah Palin's Alaska," the new TLC reality-TV show about the former governor and her home state, hit the small screen Sunday night and critics aren't sure what to make of it, especially since Palin threw in some political asides when she wasn't busy bear-watching or glacier-climbing. Is the show, as TLC and Palin say, a love letter to Alaska from its most famous resident — or is it a way to position Palin as a potential 2012 presidential candidate? (Watch clips from the show)
Candidate Palin's the biggest winner: TLC shouldn't insult our intelligence by trying to pass this "eight-hour campaign ad" off as a "run-of-the-mill" reality show, says Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon. That's like "saying 'The Biggest Loser' isn't about fat people." The way "Sarah Palin's Alaska" mixes Palin's personal and political lives makes it "hands down" the "most dangerous reality show ever conceived."
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The show is a campaign for Palin, not president: Palin is using this show to "take advantage of her celebrity," says Kathleen McKinley at the Houston Chronicle, and "show the world who [she] really is" — that is, a "down-to-earth Mom, not much different than most of us." Yes, "if she wishes, she can run for president" on the back of this show, but it's her love of Alaska's "majesty and beauty" that shines through.
Neither politics nor Alaska are the real point: The show's real appeal isn't "its quasi-conservationist message" or the scenery but the chance it offers viewers to snoop into Palin's domestic life, says Alyssa Rosenberg in The Atlantic. People will watch for the "pettiness and sweet family humor" that ordinary, "manicured and manipulated" reality-TV shows lack. Thanks to this "innocently prurient look at a very famous family," I now know that Sarah Palin wears Spanx.
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