‘Alaskan Bush People’ Special: ‘Forever Browntown’ (RECAP)


In the Alaskan Bush People special episode “Forever Browntown” (March 8), as the modern world encroaches on Southeast Alaska, the Browns fight to prove that the bush way of life is worth saving.

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Ugh. You realize the season finale was Feb. 22, right? What kind of a series has eight regular episodes and four five specials a season? Why don’t they just eliminate 20 Boat Malfunction scenes and incorporate this Lost Footage into the regular season and make the season 12 episodes instead of eight? Why don’t you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number and make that a little louder?

But ours not to reason why, ours to recap the show that just won’t die. “Forever Browntown” lets Billy tout himself as one of the last great upholders of the fading Bush lifestyle, even though his family’s only participation in the Alaskan Bush lifestyle takes place at a TV show set a few weeks out of the year.

We open with Noah using his hydrogen-fueled burner to cook up some concoction I’m going to assume is crystal meth. He adds a “crystallized solution” (sugar water) and “bean extract” (Swiss Miss instant cocoa powder), and ¡AVANTE!, he makes “sustainably produced” hot cocoa. “Quite delicious, actually,” he says. Noah is quite the tool, actually.

One of the most absurd scenes in this show’s history was Matt and Gabe loading shotgun shells with raw bacon to shoot at bears. Now we get to see some extended Lost Footage of that scene, in case you wanted to know the full extent of its ridiculousness.

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

We occasionally get a glimpse of how good this show could be if it just dumped the Brown family and their fake storylines. The Browns are the least interesting people on their own show. The producers should just go around Alaska to find real weirdos and film them doing bizarre, funny stuff. If they devoted a whole episode to old junk guy Gale, or Crazy Catherine and her Hawaii Day bathing suit, or Green Sweatpants Bruce, or horny purple-haired “Hat Trick” Connie or our beloved Kenny from the dump, I would watch that without being paid to. Instead, we’re stuck with “AWESOME!” and “EXXXXTREME!” ad nauseam. Here’s a nice montage of a few of the more interesting people to grace the show:

Gale! Remember Gale from Season 1? “The system says I have a violent personality,” he said. He also said, “I can vaguely recall having been a half of a star, a planet, a blade of grass, a pile of manure and a briar that grew out of that.” Seriously, just stick a camera on this guy and let him talk for an hour. You will DOUBLE the ratings Alaskan Bush People usually gets!

There’s this barfly at Uncle Tom’s Tavern in Chitina from Season 1. “When it gets way below zero when you piss outside, you got to run backwards so you don’t stick to it,” he advises. Kicking the Browns out of Chitina was the best thing these townsfolk ever did. They should construct a monument or have an annual festival commemorating it. I want to be the grand marshal every year.

I’m pretty sure this is Cowboy Dean from Season 1, the guy who ate a pine cone and was constipated for a week.

This lady I recognize as one of the Chitina locals who came to build the Browns’ cabin while Billy slept off some Billy Brown Syndrome in Season 1. “I actually had one guy I ran off the grounds. I pulled my gun on him and said, ‘You get in your [BLEEP] truck and get the [BLEEP] out of here or you’re my target, dude,” she says. The good people of Chitina have no time for Billy’s BS.

This guy is Chris, who was going to turn the front end of a car into a picnic table for his “hot dog match,” whatever the hell that is. Competitive eating, maybe? I almost forgot about Matt’s eyepatch, which he made out of a T-shirt when his tooth necklace flew up and hit him in the eye. Matt has many problems.

But the Browns’ biggest Bush hero is Popeye, captain of the Lara Lee (Nobody doesn’t like Lara Lee!), who’s been rescuing Billy from Boat Malfunctions for over 30 years. We’ll get to Popeye again later.

Billy is feeling melancholy about the Bush way of life declining, and his kids decide to throw a party and invite a bunch of Billy’s friends compensated participants to remind Billy that the Bush way of life is still alive and kicking despite steadily declining ratings and doubts about its authenticity. “The Bush lives as long as we do, ’cause we are still the Bush,” says Noah, who is still a tool. Bear wants to get everyone “around an AWESOME fire, that is, like, SUPERNOVA.”

The kids then have to run around all over Hoonah and places beyond looking for a bunch of old people who go by strange nicknames and are probably already dead. They ask around for “One-Armed” Pat, who had one arm and always carried around a machete, hence the one arm. They ask about “Septic Tank” Jake. They ask about Rex Roth. They ask about “Boo.” None of the locals know any of these people, but one guy knows of Frank Kitka from Sitka (or was it Frank Sitka from Kitka?), who had no toes and was probably the subject of several limericks.

On the subject of nicknames, did you know that Bear’s name isn’t really Bear? It’s just a nickname! Bear’s real full name is Solomon Isaiah Freedom Zaphnathpaaneah Chushanrishathaim Archippus Melchizedek Brown. (A few of those middle names are unconfirmed at the time of this writing.) Bam’s real first name is Joshua, but Bam Bam is somewhere on his birth certificate. They think Gabe needs a nickname, like “Chainsaw.” I can imagine future Bush kids going door-to-door looking for a guy named “Chainsaw” Gabe, who also went by “One-Armed” Gabe later in life.

The search for Billy’s old fake friends takes a turn for the worse when Noah and Birdy are FORCED TO USE MODERN TECHNOLOGY! OH, DEAR HEAVENS, NO!

THE HORROR! Here are the Browns being forced to use modern technology while waiting at the DMV. They appear to be under severe duress. Noah and Birdy go to the library to see if they can use a phone to contact people who probably never existed. The lady at the library desk gives Noah a cell phone and tells him to go to the dump to get a signal. Coincidentally, the dump is where the library keeps all their copies of One Wave at a Time. Oh, and the guy that Noah is trying to reach is dead.

Remember that cannon that Noah and Gabe used to shoot at Gabe’s biohazard shack after a tree fell on it? Well, there’s a whole long, terrible, fake backstory to that cannon. Bear says the “cannon kind of represents the Bush itself, not just the Bush but also the freedom of the Bush.” I think they’re just picking random objects and saying they represent the Bush. “Not every house in America or around the world has a cannon,” Bear says. “But Brownton does, ’cause they’re AWESOME!”

I’ll let you guys figure out what’s happening in this screen capture:

At least this show gives some screen time to the only Brown family member who doesn’t annoy the hell out of us: Cupcake. “The family’s canine companion is the personification of Bush spirit,” says Asa, Our Dear Narrator. Can a dog “personify” things? Asa doesn’t care. He just reads what they put in front of him. If Asa actually thought about what he was saying, he’d go bat-poop crazy.

Back to the party preparations. Gabe and Bear go out fishing for big salmon for the dinner party. They get two fish that are mercifully and humanely punched to death by Bear. Back on land, they’re making torches, because “The more fire, the more EXXXXTREME, the more AWESOME, the bigger the party,” says you know who. All that torch-making Lost Footage from last week’s episode just wasn’t enough. We need more so Bear can say insightful stuff like, “Deer grease is just basically the grease that comes off deer.” They would normally use rancid mayonnaise for torch fuel, but there’s no money and we’re out of mayonnaise. Then Gabe plays Bush Ninja, which makes me want to commit seppuku.

Hey, let’s see what jackassery Matt’s been up to. We find him further desecrating The Skiff. It wasn’t enough to set it ablaze and then turn it into a hot tub. He’s now spray-painting the hull green and turning The Skiff into a very sad sailboat.

And they were correct. But wait! There’s more! The interstitial segment shows Matt making his own wind turbine out of a stick and some emergency thermal blankets. He’s fascinated by what is essentially a big, nonfunctioning pinwheel.

Hang with me here. We’re getting to the home stretch. The party guests start showing up from “the nearest inhabited town, one hour away by boat.” Again, the Bureau of Bush Weights and Measures can’t determine the time it takes to get from Brownton Abbey to Hoonah. Sometimes it’s two hours by Integrity. Sometimes it’s 90 minutes by rental skiff. Today it takes an hour by, what, rocket skiff? Does this show have a continuity supervisor? Is it the same ParkSlope intern who keeps losing the Lost Footage?

Among the party guests is Hoonah Mayor Kenny Skaflestad, who has been complicit in allowing the Brown Menace to take over his town. Of course, Kenny from the dump arrived, and he brought a Plus One! Hearts are breaking all over the world!

There are about a half-dozen other random people who came for the free food and a chance to be on TV. They all sit around Bear’s ATOMIC BLAST FURNACE of a campfire and laugh at how you can’t catch and eat fish or enjoy the company of friends around a fire in the Lower 48. “I kinda wonder what all them rich people are doing down there now, ’cause this ain’t bad,” says Mayor Kenny, forgetting that rich people down there spend lots of tourist dollars in Hoonah. “Yeah, you know what this would cost them down there?” Billy asks.

Laugh now, Mayor Kenny. You may not be laughing after the next runoff election.

The show keeps teasing us with the promise of a special guest at the party, and I can’t imagine who it could be. “Bug-Eyed” Tommy? “Three-Toed” Muriel? “Horribly Disfigured” Steve?

GOOD LORD! THAT TREE SPROUTED ARMS! No, it’s just Popeye, but this show likes to surprise us with things we’ve already figured out 45 minutes ago. Billy’s just tickled that Popeye is still drawing breath. “I always know that that day’s gonna come that he’s gonna be gone, and, uh… just tickled me to death when I turned around and saw him,” Billy says. Yes, I’m sure that Popeye likes to be reminded of the grim specter of death following him around every moment. Maybe when Popeye dies, the Browns can shoot his ashes out of that cannon Hunter S. Thompson style. “[Popeye] has become a legend to the kids, right up there with Insane Duane and Uncle Joe Edgington,” Billy says. Rest in peace, Insane Duane. You were always much more fun than your brother, Levelheaded Larry. I don’t know who Uncle Joe Edgington is. I think he may have been in Star Wars.

Billy and Popeye start spinning yarns about the time that Popeye bailed out Billy’s reckless butt at sea.

Billy is moping about the dying of the Bush, but Popeye tries to cheer him up. “Bill, how can the Bush die when you guys are here?” Hey, Popeye. News flash for you, bro. The Browns aren’t there. They’re in California, Oregon, Colorado, New York City, the Carolinas or some other non-Bush Lower 48 place, or they’re in an extended stay hotel in Juneau for pre-production meetings or whatever. THE BUSH IS DEAD, POPEYE! No amount of canned spinach can bring it back! Seriously, if Billy’s family is the future of the Bush, you may as well burn the whole thing down now.

No, the only thing I see in this family’s future are a bunch of Darwin Awards. They gather everyone at the party together for a good ’ol fashioned Bush cannon blast, and Bear wants to lie under the cannon when it goes off. “What’d be more AWESOME than laying underneath a cannon when it goes BOOM and fires?” I know! Even more AWESOME would be the bears eating whatever pieces of you the medical examiner left behind. “If Bear had actually achieved laying underneath the cannon, it’s quite possible there’d be an empty seat beside me,” Noah says. “I love cannons and blowing stuff up, and I have no concerns for my own well-being, so I don’t care if it, like, explodes or something,” Bear says. “Perfect.”

Indeed, that would be perfect. Enjoy this perfect, alternate version of “Forever Browntown” that I cobbled together: