‘Alaskan Bush People’ Special: ‘Harsh Wilderness’ (RECAP)


The Alaskan Bush People special episode “Harsh Wilderness” (March 1) reveals never-before-seen footage of the Brown family’s life off the grid from the past season. If you think living off the land in seclusion seems peaceful, think again. Having a well-functioning homestead takes massive amounts of ingenuity and hard work, something the Browns have worked tirelessly to achieve.

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Ah, yes. The dreaded Lost Footage show. As if the regular episodes aren’t painful enough, we get to see stuff that wasn’t considered important or didn’t progress the narrative. Watching this episode was especially painful for me, since the Discovery GO video player kept crapping out and I was forced to watch the same Cialis commercial 27 times. Discovery GO is dysfunctional and flaccid.

We open the episode with some typical buffoonery from Bear, who is running around with a garden hoe “Dick Van Dyke style” while the rest of his family pretends to work in the garden. I’ve seen toddlers with longer attention spans than this guy. The producers really amped up the Bear stuff this season, since they realize that his long-exhausted schtick is still the most entertaining thing on ABP. He’s like an animal act on a talk show: When you’ve got nothing else, just throw it to Bear and his cheap monkeyshines. It’s still better than listening to Billy bloviate.

Our Dear Narrator Asa does some of his finest work on these Lost Footage episodes, which require him to do most of the heavy BS lifting and delivering lines like, “Rehabilitating a root cellar is a daunting task.” I still like to imagine that Asa just enters a sound booth, reads his lines and then goes home without ever having seen a single minute of this show or knowing anything about the Browns. I also wonder if Asa talks like that at home: “I must take the two-mile, five-minute journey through treacherous traffic to reach the post office in time or risk jeopardizing the future of my Citibank Visa account forever.” I spend most of my days imagining stuff.

Lost Footage episodes give us the chance to see the film crew doing stuff, just to remind us that there are a lot of people working behind the scenes to ensure we have a TV show to make fun of. Just as the Browns must contend with fake bear attacks, so too must the production crew, who had one of their trailers ransacked.

Hmm. These claw marks seem too well defined to have come from a bear.

And these blast points, too accurate for sand people. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise. Seriously, that’s a lot of damage just to stage a phony bear attack. They really did a number on this thing. I wonder if they got an old trailer that was awaiting demolition, threw a bunch of office supplies and a flat-screen TV from Kenny’s dump in it, and then just went nuts with the pinch bars and 5-pound sledges. Let’s take a look at footage from inside the production trailer, which for some reason has a trail camera inside of it. It’s probably so ParkSlope executives can spy on the crew as they sleep. In this case, the camera just happened to catch a bear rummaging through stuff.

They never actually show the bear doing any of the damage, which would’ve made for really cool Lost Footage. Instead, we just get to see the bear nosing around for whatever bait was left there. I especially like how the bear ripped the mattress off of that bed frame on the lower right and threw it on the bed on other side of the room. That’s some well-coordinated plundering there, bear.

RELATED: Channel Guide Magazine‘s AWESOME And EXXXXTREME Alaskan Bush People Archive

Turns out the bears were also having a lot more fun in Brownton Abbey than we were shown in the found footage. A bear ripped open the smoke shack, and while it didn’t get any meat, it caused some damage.

Come for the smell. Stay for Rainy’s valuable insight.

And Gabe’s terrible movie impressions.

Oddly enough, that bear in the lower left corner of that shot is the same one that busted through the Browns’ window. Rainy befriended and domesticated the bear, then taught it how to hold salt and pepper shakers.

We get to see how Matt bushcrafted a bear alarm on that freezer he got from Kenny’s dump. He took an old metal wagon wheel and rigged up a hammer with string. Opening the freezer releases the string which swings the hammer into the wagon wheel “gong” and produces a mild clang that will alert no one but Matt, who will come running out with guns a-blazin’ like the roughest, toughest, rootinest, shootinest bear chaser that ever chased a bear. And you thought he quit drinkin’.

As you can see, here’s where my video player went on the fritz. The upside is that I could suddenly choose different font styles for the closed captioning on the screen.

[DIGRESSION! I was a percussionist for most of my school days. While I did get to enjoy playing the glamorous percussion instruments like the drum set, the snare drum, the bass drum, the tympani, the rototoms and the crash cymbals, we also had to take our turns at the auxiliary percussion instruments like the gong, the triangle, the maracas, the claves, the castanets, the ratchet, the wind chimes, the vibraslap, the güiro, the wood block, the shaker, the cabasa and, yes, the COWBELL! Of all these instruments, the gong was the most satisfying for a number of reasons. You could always pretend you were on a game show. You could pretend you were hailing the arrival of the emperor of an ancient Chinese dynasty. The audience can’t take its eyes off the gong player, because he could go off at any moment, and when he goes off, he goes off SOMETHIN’ FIERCE! But playing the gong is more than taking your frustrations out on a big frying pan. There is an artistry to banging the gong. Did you know a gong must be “warmed up” before it is struck? The gong player is drawing the sound out of the gong, not beating the noise into it. Yes, the gong player must apply a gentle, tender touch before unleashing the fury. This is why chicks dig gong players. And I’ve completely forgotten about whatever TV show it is that I’m supposed to be writing about.]

Ah, yes. Alaskan Bush People. What a terrible show. We get to see how the Browns harvest fish, and plankton, and sea greens and protein from the sea. There’s a pointless scene about how the Browns make shrimpin’ nets out of empty paint cans with holes poked into them. We don’t get to see them used, because I’m pretty sure these don’t work.

We get to see the long, boring, confused manner in which Matt caught a fish for dinner while on his walkabout earlier this season. I’m not much of an angler, but for a guy who has supposedly been fishing for sustenance all of his life, Matt seems pretty clueless on how to use a rod and reel.

Gabe and Birdy go out crab fishing and catch nothing but a starfish and some garbage. The starfish is then humiliated and worn as a headpiece for Gabe’s amusement. Birdy pretends to plant a kiss on the starfish before releasing it back to the sea. That starfish will require years of therapy and medication.

There’s a Lost Footage scene with Matt and Bear taking some girls out crab-fishing on the skiff. Bear is concerned about this double-date arrangement.

Oh, I think you’ll do more than your share of scaring girls, my AWESOME and EXXXXTREME friend. They locate one of their crab pots and pull it up. It’s got a nice catch of crabs in it. And then the date just gets weird.

Matt bashes the crab against the side of the skiff until it busts apart. It is the humane thing to do, people. Then Bear starts punching a crab until its shell caves in and all the crab goo sprays everywhere. Again, it is the humane thing to do.

At this point in the episode, I wish someone would bash me against the side of a boat and end the misery of having to watch the rest of this. It would be the humane thing to do.

So, what do you ladies think of Matt and Bear?

In more Lost Footage, we find Bear and Birdy spending some time together on P.O.W. They find this cute little coffee trailer called American Espresso (“Don’t go home without one!”) and Bear wants to get hot chocolate. Hot chocolate? So NOT EXXXXTREME! But I guess the last thing Bear needs in his system is caffeine. We meet Sky, the Bush Barista, and she and Bear have a lot in common. She likes fire. She likes yellow cedar. THEY ARE PRACTICALLY SOULMATES! As luck would have it, Sky and her friends are having a bonfire that night, and Bear and Birdy are invited. Like most social engagements, it’s a perfect opportunity for Bear to make an ass of himself. He’s like that guy at a party who seems really drunk or high, but it turns out he’s just really dumb. Bear starts talking about the superiority of women, then cites an example from his extensive knowledge of England’s history.

“Take England, for example. England was ruled by one corrupt king after another, after another. But then, finally, they put in a queen to rule, and it was like, peace. And it’s been, like, peace ever since, too.”

I can only assume he’s talking about Queen Mary I, who became known as “Bloody Mary” not for her brutal persecution of Protestants but because of her love of tomato-juice-based alcoholic beverages.

Oh, crap. It’s Noah time. Let’s just get this over with. We learn from Noah that he is a real Bush Casanova.

Strangely, none of those women have known him. We have to sit through Lost Footage of Noah and Rhain With an H on their cookies and orange cream soda picnic and OH, DEAR GOD, NO! NOT THIS! ANYTHING BUT THIS!

Alaskan Bush People

Let’s move on from Bush courtship rituals to Bush Cosmetology, shall we? Sorry, we must. Bear and Bam debate the proper techniques for a Bush Manicure. Bam prefers to use wet/dry sandpaper, while Bear prefers the more “EXXXXTREME nail-filing” technique of scraping his nails against a rock. Bear says that they’ll just have to disagree on Dainty Sandpaper vs. the MASCULINE ROCK!

Congratulations to Bear on his debut album, MASCULINE ROCK, which just moved to No. 1 ahead of Bam’s latest LP Dainty Sandpaper on Billboard’s Bush Music Chart.

Oh, that was fun. Let’s press on.

Matt’s tire hut suffered bear-attack damage, and it is now inhospitable, as if he’d ever slept in it to begin with. He starts going around Brownton Abbey trying all sorts of alternative shelter options, all of them terrible. He tries a combo of what looks like bedsheets and plastic wrap.

At least Matt should still be fresh when the bears start munching on him. Matt eventually ends up putting a mattress in his failed root cellar, which is where they buried Kenny’s body a few seasons ago.

“The Brown family lives most of their lives in complete isolation,” Asa, Our Dear Narrator, says. [Insert laughter here.] They’re so isolated, that they live in a place where darkness literally ascends. This family loves to abuse “literally,” but Bear doesn’t even get that darkness figuratively “falls” or “descends.” This is what getting home-schooled by a high-school dropout gets you: A six word vocabulary and a show on Discovery Channel.

At least Bear has relatively good torch-making skills, which come in handy when you’re working on the set of Survivor. He only sets himself on fire about half the time.

And now it’s time for another round of The Browns Pretend to Not Know Stuff! Our first contestant is Gabe. Gabe, who is Bruno Mars?

IDIOT! Next contestant is Rainy. Rainy, who is Anderson Cooper?

That was not the question. IMBECILE! Birdy, what is Obamacare?

You are only half right. HALFWIT! Bear, what is bottle service?

YOU were left on the doorstep! I weep for all of you. I thank the Good Lord that I don’t have to watch any more of this for a while. If there is mercy, justice and sanity left in this world, Discovery will can this show once and for all.