UPDATED: ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ is having a rollercoaster ride in the ratings. Viewership took a dip for this past Sunday’s episode in which Sarah bagged a caribou on an Alaska hunting trip. The episode attracted 2.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen data released Tuesday by TLC. That’s down from the 3.5 million viewers Palin’s reality series drew the week before. In fact, it’s been an up-and-down season for ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ ever since the first episode premiered with 4.96 million viewers on Nov.14, then dipped a week later to 3 million.
PREVIOUSLY: A graphic hunting scene in ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’ in which the former governor and vice presidential candidate was seen fatally shooting a caribou, is angering animal-rights groups.
The most vocal of them – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – was quick to issue a statement on Monday condemning the show, which aired Sunday night on TLC. “Sarah seems to think that resorting to violence and blood and guts may lure people into watching her boring show,” said the statement from PETA Vice President Dan Mathews. “But the ratings remain as dead as the poor animals she shoots.”
Well, the ratings aren’t exactly dead. Last weekend, the third episode of the eight-part reality series attracted 3.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen figures released by TLC, rising from 3 million for Episode Two a week earlier.
Neither Palin nor TLC had any comment Monday on PETA’s reaction to the show. But Palin predicted the episode might draw some complaints and issued several statements, via her Facebook and Twitter pages, before it aired. “Tonight’s hunting episode ‘controversial’?” she asked on her Facebook page in a comment she posted on Sunday. “Really? Unless you’ve never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather couch or eaten a piece of meat, save your condemnation of tonight’s episode. I remain proudly intolerant of anti-hunting hypocrisy.”
On Sunday’s show – the series’ fourth episode – gung-ho Sarah explained that such hunts are a common method for putting up food for the winter that is essential for the survival of “most Alaskans.”
“Hunting is something most Alaskans do to fill their freezer with meat for the winter,” she said on her TLC reality series, before embarking on a two-day hunting expedition in the north of Alaska with her father, Chuck, and a family friend. Really, Sarah? “Most” Alaskans? Meaning more than half of them? Hey, maybe it’s true – it’s just a difficult concept to contemplate for those of us who live in the lower 48 where grocery stores are plentiful, well-stocked, conveniently located and open 24 hours.
Sarah even spoke in terms that must have sounded familiar to anthropologists and others who study primitive cultures. Explaining why her husband, Todd, would not be joining her on this excursion, Sarah said, “This year, Todd and I split the hunting and gathering responsibilities.” “Hunting and gathering”?
She even rationalized the hunt by informing viewers that the family meat supplies had dwindled down to only a handful of packages of “caribou sausage and moose pepperoni,” regional delicacies which must make for some interesting pizzas in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Wasilla.
And so, Sarah and company packed tents, sandwiches, guns and ammo into a tiny plane and took off for a remote camp to stalk caribou, which Sarah said number in the hundreds of thousands in Alaska’s wilderness. Meanwhile, we viewers saw about three of them on this two-day hunt, two of which were fatally shot – the first by family friend Steve Becker and the second by Mama Rambo herself – Sarah – decked out in headband and camouflage.
In the show’s most controversial scene, we got to see Sarah get ready, aim and fire at a caribou, bagging the beast on her fifth shot (after switching to a more powerful rifle with a more accurate sight). And unlike most of the hunting shows that have aired for years on various ESPN channels and the old Outdoor Life Network (among others), we got to witness the moment the animal got hit and then collapsed heavily on the ground. In fact, the scene was preceded by a viewer advisory.
Standing around the lifeless animal, Sarah solemnly quoted one of America’s legendary outdoorsmen. “In the words of Ted Nugent,” she said, “We thank that mighty animal for living a good life and now sustaining a nice family.”
We then got a close-up lesson in butchering in the field as the hunters set to the task of quartering the caribou and bundling the various cuts of meat for transport back to Wasilla. There, on the Palins’ kitchen island, the pieces were trimmed and made ready for the freezer, but not before Steve Becker displayed the caribou’s heart for the edification of Sarah’s 9-year-old daughter, Piper.
To hear Sarah tell it, few pursuits in life are more enjoyable than a triumphant hunting trip. Said she, “When you see that you have a successful hit, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”
With this past Sunday’s show, we’re now at the halfway point in the eight-part ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska.’ Next week, in Episode Five, Sarah goes out in the wild once again, this time it’s a camping trip with fellow TLC reality star Kate Gosselin and her eight children.
What did you think of Sarah Palin’s hunting trip? Does it enhance or damage her image? And what about next week’s show? Can rough-and-ready Sarah survive the Gosselins?