And there’s not one word about Sarah Palin

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

I’M an Alaskaphile of se­ri­ous pro­por­tions. Hav­ing vis­ited the place for a fort­night or so in the 1980s, while I’d never call my­self an ex­pert, I can at least vouch for the unique pris­tine wilder­ness of the place and its hardy, pi­o­neer-spir­ited peo­ple. So, put Alaska in the ti­tle of a tele­vi­sion pro­gram and I’m on it.

While many Alaskan wildlife pro­grams are so good they make you want to dance in the snow, to be sure, some junk TV has also been made in the 49th state of the Amer­i­can Union ( Alaskans call the other states ‘‘ the lower 48’’).

Hap­pily, this re­al­ity ad­ven­ture for­mer cat­e­gory.

While it does fea­ture the hor­ri­bly cliched re­al­ity show mu­sic you can’t es­cape on pro­grams such as Sur­vivor ( all ten­sion strings and ex­plo­sive per­cus­sion, as if the yeti it­self is per­pet­u­ally poised above the re­cently slain corpses of the par­tic­i­pants), for the most part the land­scape is al­lowed to shine through the show’s premise.

The Alaska Ex­per­i­ment films four groups of peo­ple who have agreed to leave mod­ern life in an at­tempt to sur­vive in the wilder­ness for three months. They are given dry ra­tions, sim­ple hunt­ing tools and crude shel­ter, and they must hunt prey if they want to spice up their diet with any­thing more ro­bust than rice and pota­toes.

First up we meet Greg and Ber­nice Pier­son, a Cal­i­for­nian cou­ple mar­ried for 12 years. Their first task is to hike 16km up the Hawkins Glacier to find a wilder­ness cabin.

Along the way they have to cross the near-freez­ing, rapidly flow­ing and beau­ti­fully shot se­ries is in the

Glacier chal­lenge: Greg and Ber­nice are part of the ex­per­i­ment waist-deep wa­ters of the Chitina River. Men­tor Paul Claus, cred­ited as an Alaskan sur­vival ex­pert, help­fully lets them know that if they fall into the river, the bed of which is cov­ered with slip­pery, oddly shaped rocks, they have 90 sec­onds to get out. Any longer and they’re dead. ( Cue ten­sion strings).

Then there are three frat bud­dies; a man and his two teenage daugh­ters; and fi­nally, a cou­ple from New Jer­sey.

Each group is dropped in a dif­fer­ent part of Alaska, hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres apart, and faces dif­fer­ent sur­vival chal­lenges.

The New Jer­sey cou­ple, for ex­am­ple, has to kayak up a river fes­tooned with ice­floes that have calved off a glacier. They will be search­ing for their new home, a white Alaskan wall tent, along the bank. Lucky devils.

But I save my green­est envy for Den­nis Wise and his teenage daugh­ters, who must share a place called Icy Bay with Alaska’s largest pop­u­la­tion of brown bears.

More peo­ple are killed by bears in Alaska than in any other place on earth. But the Wises shouldn’t worry. That only amounts to six since 2000.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Ev­ery young mother in charge of a new­born has anx­i­ety, not just about how to care for the in­fant but about los­ing con­trol and not be­ing able to avert hor­ren­dous con­se­quences. Tonight’s epit­o­mises that fear when a mother has a seizure while bathing her new­born son, al­most drown­ing him. Natch, Dr House has to mo­bilise the team to work out the cause of the fit.

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