Is Discovery's 'Raising Wild' Better Than 'Alaskan Bush People'?
Could you give up your smartphone, your computer and even your TV (yikes!) to live independent of modern society? Could you convince the rest of your family to join you?
In Discovery Channel’s Raising Wild (once known as Book of Hines), premiering June 2, former covert military man and intelligence officer Brett Hines, his wife and their seven kids leave civilization behind and try to start life over as homesteaders in a remote part of Washington state.
“At some point in life, we’ve all said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to just get away from everything and live out in the wild?’ This is a suburban family who took that idea and ran with it,” says executive producer Deborah Ridpath. "To me it feels incredibly authentic and relatable."
In addition to footage shot by the TV crew, the Hines family has been documenting their experience with cameras for years, making them an extension of the crew as they captured scenes that would’ve otherwise been lost. “It is really intimate, and you get that immediate, visceral feeling that it’s happening right here, right now,” Ridpath says. “Anything that came up was covered.”
Hines puts his military-honed survival skills to work in leading his family on this endeavor, but as first-time homesteaders, there was plenty of trial and error. “A lot of things didn’t work the way that they thought, so they really, truly had to learn as they were going along,” Ridpath tells us.
According to Discovery's announcement, Brett Hines is "a former Army counter-intelligence officer and military contractor" with nearly two decades of service conducting operations overseas in places like Afghanistan.
"We give a brief history of his service in the show," Ridpath says. "He was injured, as well. Part of the reason that they decided to go for it in the end is because he almost died from his injuries. It was kind of like that dream that everyone has — whatever that dream is — and then something catastrophic happens. What changes are we making in our lives right now because you got that wakeup call? That's very much a part of why they decided to just completely go for it, ready or not."
When Discovery announced in April of 2018 that it had picked up Raising Wild, we immediately noticed some eerie similarities to another Discovery Channel show that we've covered extensively: Alaskan Bush People.
My hope was that Discovery would give ABP's Brown family the boot and replace them with the Hines family, but it appears there's enough space in Discovery's stable for both shows. (Discovery hasn't announced a return date for the remainder of ABP Season 9ish episodes.)
I asked Ridpath how Raising Wild avoids becoming just a clone of Alaskan Bush People.
"I think it stands on its own," she says. "For me, the difference in the two shows is that people at home will be able to relate to [the Hines] family. Because they're first-time homesteaders. Because they're people who have some measure of expertise, but not completely."
At least the Hines family's backstory seems much more solid than the Brown family's, which has been exposed as false. Hopefully, Raising Wild won't have to rely on false pretenses and absurdity to gain an audience.
"I think people are going to be able to imagine themselves going through the same experience," Ridpath says. Alaskan Bush People is different in that way in the sense that there's probably not too many people sitting at home going, 'Well, that's just like Cousin Mark!'"
There is also the matter of the Hines family living in the same remote county of Washington where the Brown family established their ranch.
This Is Just a Test, the producers of Raising Wild, put out a casting call in January 2016 "looking for a family of at least six individuals in the Oroville area who live mostly without modern amenities." Billy Brown purchased the land in Washington almost two years later. Who got there first? And is the Brown-Hines proximity just a coincidence?
By all accounts, the Hines family set roots in Washington before the Browns did. It's unclear if Discovery's order for Raising Wild influenced the Browns and Park Slope to move Alaskan Bush People to this part of Washington. For now, it appears to be a combination of coincidence and availability of land.
"Our crew stayed at a motel/gas station in a place called Tonasket," Ridpath says. "There are a lot of homesteaders out in that area. There are a lot of characters and people living this way in some shape or form. [The Hines family] bought this land a long time ago, so their plan was always to be there. There's not too many places where you can get a big chunk of land that isn't near anybody."
Raising Wild, Premieres Sunday, June 2, 10/9c, Discovery Channel