There was a simpler time. There was a time gone by. Somewhere before the summer of 2008, most of us had blissfully only heard the name of Palin in the context of Michael of Monty Python fame. Now you can try as you might and you cannot avoid the juggernaut media domination that is Palin-nation. Her, him, them - all on TV. Help.
The weirdest moment among many on Bristol Palin: Life with Tripp starring erstwhile charity worker Bristol Palin is when the Palin family is camping out and Mama Grizzly Sarah Palin starts singing the The Beverly Hillbillies Collection theme as they talk about Bristol's imminent move to the lower 48 and the decadence of Southern California. That's when it dawned on me that this whole Palin situation is much, much larger than I ever imagined. The Palins are building on the Kardashian model to turn our entire world into a reality show starring them, but in a much frightening way, a kind of bizarro-Kardashian world. Be afraid, be very afraid.
The Kardashians can generally be dismissed because despite the stories of rumors of a stage-managed sex tape, the fake marriage, the popping up on scripted television shows, the bizarre ruination of the basketball credibility of Lamar Odom, the handbags, the perfume, and so on the Kardashians generally stay away from anything that really matters. They don't spew about their values in a smug, self-loving manner and they keep their opinions to themselves so as not to damage the brand. Why would a Kardashian come out in favor of gay marriage or oppose the President, it would lose them consumers, watchers and followers. Bad for business.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, has become the queen bee of political theater on Fox News with her over made-up, stilted moments of sheer awfulness spewing a bizarre brand of Right Wing bigotry. She made a mockery of the early days of the Republican primary when embarked on a bus trip to historical sites to make news revealing the hidden meanings of our history that might have eluded us in our far left wing influenced bubble. There was also the movie about her, Sarah Palin: The Undefeated, that premiered in Iowa and was seen by many hundreds of supporters across the country. It recently arrived on television on the Reelz Network where that crazy Kennedy epic found a home. Interestingly, Sarah Palin: The Undefeated was not that awful of movie in that it contained quite a bit of information about Alaska and the politics of the frontier state.
Sarah Palin is definitely pushing a political and social agenda. She is using Facebook, Twitter and other media to encourage a way of thinking based on some kind of Christian formulation birthed in the crucible of Alaskan life. She is using her husband and family to create a tapestry of engagement with American society at all levels. Her followers are legion and they rival Clay Aiken's fans in their fervor and devotion to their Sarah. Interestingly, Amazon.com sells a bundle of Sarah Palin's Alaska, Sarah Palin: The Undefeated and Atlas Shrugged: Part One together.
Recent events like the conviction of Shaeffer Cox, leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, of conspiracy to kill federal law enforcement officers and possession of illegal weapons have kept her in the news. He is a former delegate to the 2008 Republican convention and Republican candidate for the Alaska House. Geoffrey Dunn in an article on The Huffington Post reported that Palin ally, Joe Miller, a "staunch political ally of Palin's" and her former director of boards and commissions Frank Bailey, apparently known as her "hatchet man", introduced Cox to the FBI informant that brought him down. This meeting also took place during the attempt "coup" by Palin and her supporters during the 2008 Alaska Republican Convention against her longtime nemesis Randy Ruedrich. Dunn continues with the information that Palin has longtime ties to anti-government fring elements of Alaska politics. Her husband, Todd has registered as a member of the Alaska Independent Party which has called for secession from the Union and Palin herself appeared in a video about the AIP. Now there is a reality show! Intrepid Alaskans financed by big oil money are tired of sharing with the welfare-ridden other 49 states and fight to create freedom for them and their families. Like Falling Skies for reals, people!
Sarah Palin's own reality show in 2010, Sarah Palin's Alaska, which had reasonable ratings for The Learning Channel and got a lot of publicity, especially when Sarah gunned down a moose. Writer Aaron Sorkin commented that he was sure "the moose had it coming." Criticized for its content and it's staging, the show did not get renewed, although the reason depends on who you talk to about it. The news headlines were ripe this year with talk of a new Palin reality show in the works, but nothing for Sarah panned out. She aborted the bus trip to attend to jury duty back in Alaska, which effectively removed her from attention during the Republican Primary except for her promotion of the audacious candidacy of Newt Gingrich. She was the subject of a less than complimentary tome called The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinnis, who actually moved in next door to her in Wasilla and proceeded to collect every rumor about the Palins he could find. She was the subject of a less than complimentary docudrama based on the political novel Game Change that featured an intriguing impersonation of her by Julianne Moore. Now she is mostly known for throwing red meat to conservatives on Twitter, Facebook and in speeches, besides her appearances on Fox.
Various people worked on various versions of a reality show for the daughter of Sarah Palin who emerged on the national stage as a pregnant teen at the Republican National Convention when her mother took the stage as Presidential candidate John McCain's choice as Vice President of the United States. Since then she has become a spokesman for teenage abstinence, a blogger, a dancer on ABC and apparently, in her mind, a best-selling author. Reports are that sales of her book, Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far, are pretty dismal and attendance at book signings was less than overwhelming. To be fair, the book by her baby daddy Levi Johnston, Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs, were no better. Although to be be fair, his current sales rank on Amazon is #22,123 after about 9 months and hers is #214, 025 after a year on sale. He has 104 used copies for sale starting at $0.01 and she has 157 copies for used for sale starting at $0.02. Certainly the reviews by Amazon readers for his are more sympathetic than hers.
Now Lifetime is to carry Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp. Gossip site TMZ reported the details on the lawsuit filed by former Disney star Kyle Massey and his family in L.A. Federal Court claiming they had developed the concept of a reality show surrounding Sarah Palin's eldest daughter's attempts to raise her son Tripp in California -- and then were cut out by another producer. The BIO Channel passed on the Massey version of Bristol's reality but Lifetime picked it up with Associated Television International calling the shots.
During the run-up the premier, political-media website were aflame with the story of new radio "star" Mike Huckabee taking Bristol to task for not appearing on his show. He took time on his show to declare that she has made herself "fair game" for criticism "because she's said, 'Hey, I want to be in the spotlight.'" The plucky 21-year-old single mom responded on her blog by linking to an article on the American Spectator ripping him, blaming his team for the mistake and saying she would rather call his competition Rush Limbaugh anyway. She did not ask if he was a... homosexual. But, the message is clear. Don't cross the Palins. Remember that old boy who wouldn't fire Sarah's brother-in-law from the State Troopers? Fired. Remember when Levi's mom got arrested for drug possession? She got three years. Remember the kid who hacked Sarah's email during the presidential campaign? Both Sarah and Bristol testified against him and he got a year and a day in federal minimum security prison followed by three years of supervised release. Yikes.
The newly minted reality star Bristol Palin, or B.P., as her former Dancing with the Stars co-star Mark Ballas calls her in his cameo, has found the road a little rockier. The most enjoyable part of Life is a Tripp is the interactive quality of the show. Yes, we can play along as Bristol and Willow sit in a coffee shop sipping their frappuccinos and wearing their cheap sunglasses, mulling out their immediate future before the next commercial. You can shout at the television to try to help them solve their dilemmas. Don't want to bothered by paparazzi? Go back to Alaska! Willow doesn't want to baby sit? Hire a nanny? Put off by the image conscious Hollywood? Move to San Antonio! It goes on and on.
The most sympathetic character on the show is Gino, the poor bastard who is dating Bristol "on and off." Can only imagine what horrors are in store for this dude. How long will it be before Bristol has another "oops" moment with another Levi of the moment? But, of course, you have to believe that like everyone else from Wasilla on camera in this show, they are only interested in preserving the Alaskan values that made the Palin family such a force in American media. Alaska is one crazy place and the show will almost certainly head back there after the unfortunate detour to Beverly Hills. No one really believes that Bristol wants to work at a charity (where she spent about 27 seconds of first episode air time) although she does tour the downtrodden parts of L.A. where the homeless outnumber her hometown by about 6-1. Another reality show about pseudo-celebrity running around Rodeo Drive? Really? But to get down and dirty in the land of the midnight sun, well, that might be something to see. The oxycontin! The alcoholism! The wolves! The frostbite!
The scene where she confronts the guy yelling at her was so contrived as to be worthless dramatically-realistic. But it shows an example of the creeping of Palin-ness into the real world because of the course the whole thing made real world news headlines at the time. Precious little emphasis was put on the fact that it occurred within the context of a reality show and intriguing how the dude involved just happened to make some promotional headlines by appearing the sue the show for showing him because he didn't sign a release. And Lifetime then proceeded to show him anyway. The dude should have stayed with his "Is that the way you rode Levi?" remark. That was pretty funny, especially if you know the story about how she got pregnant by the former Palin "second son." But the need to attack her mother was a mistake if real and lame if set up. For me there was a chilling quality to the way Bristol asked him about hating her mother, "Is it because you are a... homosexual?" With that ever slight, if you will pardon the expression, pregnant pause she opened the door to a whole range of "is it becauses" - "Is it because you are a... liberal?" "Is it because you are an... illegal immigrant?" "Is it because you are a... Muslim terrorist?" "Is it because you are a... Communist?
The show's ratings were pretty low and the content was pretty godawful. However Bristol is happily blogging about her feelings about being on a reality show. "So, it's crazy to see your life unfold on television! " she writes. "This was my life. And honestly, I sometimes don't know what my life will hold. After all, I'm only 21 years old. Where will I end up living? What will I end up doing for a job? What sports will Tripp end up loving? Who will I end up marrying?" You can't make this stuff up. The premiere was actually a two-parter (with eye toward syndication (!?) no doubt). Episode 1 had been titled Spreading My Wings, apparently referencing how important it was for Bristol to be on her own, and episode 2 was called From Bad To Worse, apparently reference how unenjoyable that turned out to be. This week's episode is called Bristol, A Book And The Beach, where apparently Bristol deals with Levi's book release with the subsequent media exploitation and... goes to the beach.
As if the debut of Bristol's own show was not enough Palinomania for one week, we had the news has come out last week that Sarah's husband and Bristol's Dad has landed his own reality gig. NBC will air Stars Earn Stripes, hosted by Samantha Harris and former General Wesley Clark in August. Todd, who is known for his four-time championship in Alaska's Tesoro Iron Dog, will meet challenges based on exercises used in the military for cash prizes to be donated to charities. He is not exactly billed as a "star" but rather an Alaska businessman. He worked for BP for 18 years and also has been a commercial salmon fisherman. Maybe Trump's Celebrity Apprentice is next. He's part of a cast that includes Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali; actor comedian and former football player Terry Crews, actor and former Superman Dean Cain, singer and TV personality Nick Lachey; Olympic ski star Picabo Street; pro wrestler Eve Torres, and, in a bit of reality overload, Biggest Loser trainer Dolvett Quince.
Track, Trig, Willow and Piper are still without shows of their own. Pretty soon there could be channel 228 called the Palin Channel that has cameras in their house in Wasilla for kind of a whole Big Brother kind of ride. Sarah will have her commentaries, speeches and news reports with no middle man like the unappreciative Fox News. Todd and Track will cover sports and adventure and business. Perhaps Todd can get a show where he brings celebrities up to Alaska and works them on the North Slope. Sarah can take celebrities out on a survivor thing thing where they kill stuff. Of course, we will have dating, weddings, pregnancy, more weddings and dating and pregnancy and weddings, dating and pregnancies to go through with Bristol, Willow and Piper. I am seeing an Alaskan Bachelorette Palin-style. There will be the show called Sarah Palin: The Contributor as the millionaires and billionaires all line up to give her money and she decides who will be allowed to contribute. Then, in 2016 Sarah Palin runs for President of the United States...as the star of Sarah Palin's America: The Run for the White House. And then? The mind truly boggles.