'Alaskan Bush People': 'Fowl Weather Friends' (RECAP)
On the Alaskan Bush People episode "Fowl Weather Friends" (August 25), Snowbird goes on a treacherous hunt to bring home meat for the family and save her chickens from slaughter. Later, Noah constructs an automatic diaper machine and Gabe gets bush insight from Ami that he can pass along to Raquell.
An open letter to David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications:
Dear Mr. Zaslav,
I hope this letter finds you in good spirits, perhaps enjoying the waning days of summer on holiday in the Riviera or on a yachting excursion with Oprah.
Though we have not met personally, we have been in the same room on at least one occasion (that I can recall). Our vocations are in the same industry, though yours is significantly more lucrative than mine. Your core business involves the creation and distribution of video content, primarily via your recently expanded suite of Discovery cable TV networks. My core business is to critique yours. Consider me something of third-party quality-control specialist.
You have various and sundry responsibilities to shareholders, financiers, multichannel video programming distributors both great and small, and the many organizations' board of directors on which you hold a seat. As leader of a multinational media conglomerate, you must possess a greater, wider vision of the business than, say, a mid-level executive VP of something or other. Understandably, your concern is of the entire orchard, not an individual tree.
I regret to inform you that a tree in your vast fields has long bore — and continues to bear — rotten fruit. Somehow, Alaskan Bush People remains on your flagship network's programming lineup.
I know it is difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept. The continued existence of this program on Discovery Channel can only be attributed to negligence, incompetence or malice. It's entirely possible that you are oblivious to the fact that your company commissions and owns this program, now in its fifth year and 10th-ish season.
I suspect that you have not watched an episode of Alaskan Bush People in its entirety. Furthermore, I dare say that if the Alaskan Bush People approached you outside your Park Avenue South corporate headquarters in Manhattan, you'd have your security detail detain them in the deep recesses of your office building for interrogation and light bludgeoning. I certainly would.
The corporation you oversee has the dubious honor of generating and propagating Alaskan Bush People, the most senseless, most absurd and most specious TV program I've had the unfortunate task to view in my 20-plus years in this profession. The series' most recent installment, "Fowl Weather Friends," is exemplary of its idiocy. If you are able to stay conscious through the entire episode, you will see precisely what I mean.
We open with Birdy, Rainy and Gabe playing with their goats. They're bottle-feeding one of the kids — the goat kids — until one of the humanoid kids, Gabe, tries the goat milk for himself. Gabe has licked mud off of rocks and Birdy enjoys the occasional creek water and concrete smoothie, and somehow they're grossed out by Gabe tasting goat's milk.
WINTER IS RIGHT THERE!! Much work remains to be done in preparation for the coming season of death, but on Brown Star
Ranch Petting Zoo, this is the season for...
Baseball! Or something vaguely resembling it. This is not so much baseball as it is Gabe Ruth and family running around in pleather pants with a big stick and punching each other in the groin. Let's watch a replay, shall we?
You might be asking how this show could get any better than that? It does not. We could stop watching now, but that's not how this recapping process works. You must behold this entire thing to fully comprehend how bad it is.
The nine-member Brown family (except Matt) does not, despite the title of the show, live in Alaska. They live in the state of Bushington. They are in the process of fulfilling Father Billy's months-long dream of living independently on a self-sustaining ranch. Mostly, he wants it to be sustained by Discovery Communications.
[DIGRESSION! My neighbors are big into suburban agriculture. The neighbors went on a long weekend camping trip and asked if I could care for their livestock, which consisted of a few rabbits and approximately 50 chickens, all being raised for meat. I think it's admirable to grow your own food. At least you know where it came from and how it was raised. My sons, ages 7 and 8, helped out with enthusiasm I've never seen from them before. We drove a short distance to a property where the owner lent our neighbors some land with a small barn, a pen and a coop. Once a day, we filled their water tank and scooped out helpings of organic chicken feed from 50-pound bags. We checked the perimeter of the pen for signs of predators trying to get in. It was a cool experience, at least for a few days. In my head, I tried to do the cost/benefit analysis of raising your own chickens. Account for all the costs of time, physical effort, land usage, feed, butchering and freezing/preservation of the meat, and you're probably better off getting a $5 rotisserie chicken at Costco. You might ask, "But what will you do when civilization crumbles and there is no more law, order or Costco?" Anyone who's ever stepped into a Costco knows that one of those warehouses can sustain an entire mid-sized city through at least a dozen nuclear winters. Failing that, I just might know a place where we can find some live chickens.]
Birdy is exceedingly fond of the livestock, so much so that she'd rather keep the chickens as cuddly pets than use them for sustenance. Gabe and Birdy debate the snuggle vs. slaughter dilemma, and Birdy wants Gabe to "look at all the faces you want to kill."
"I want to live off the land and live in the woods more than anyone probably on the planet," Birdy says. Real bush people would laugh at this, but they don't watch this show and they're too busy doing things for, you know, survival.
Gabe and Noah go to an antique store in Tonasket. Noah is looking for some unreasonably ornate and unwieldy piece of old furniture to fashion into a baby diaper-changing station. Noah, to our great shock, is the first of the Browns to wed and conceive offspring. Gabe is in the process of bringing Raquell into the fold, and he seeks some advice from Noah on how to
indoctrinate acclimate a significant other into fake Bush life.
Yeah, I remember how smoothly that went. Noah suggests that Gabe make the Bush more hospitable to his mate. Raquell is from Minnesota, so Gabe might try bringing her things like lutefisk, the Mall of America, Bob Dylan records, 10,000-ish lakes, tater tot casserole, zero Lombardi Trophies and a seething resentment masked by polite friendliness.
After all, what do you find in the Bush? That which you also bring to the Bush.
Birdy believes that she can just go out and kill a nameless wild animal so her family doesn't have to kill their cute farm animals. Sure, she could do that, or she could just eat whatever bounties spew forth from Mother Ami's Magic Bowl.
Rainy, who is all dolled up for livin' in the Bush, explains that it's not the chicken-killin' system that's at fault. It's only Birdy's attitude about the chicken-killin' system that needs adjusting.
So there! Gabe just wants the chicken-killin' system to get to work before the meat gets all tough and stringy.
Elsewhere, Bam is doing some harvesting of his own, and Rainy is eager to get on with the slaughtering already. Bam has a few quail in a pen. He takes one of the birds and smacks its head against a rock. (There are a few ways to humanely dispatch quail, but using kitchen scissors to snip off the head seems to be the preferred method.)
Bam cleans the quail, and I'm thinking that this small bird will provide enough meat for perhaps half of a grilled quail sandwich. Rainy wants to eat the quail feet. Rainy likes feet.
When she goes out for long walks or whatever, she'll take a bag of chicken feet with her just to snack on. "Pretty much any animal that I've eaten, I've eaten its feet," she says. I'm guessing this excludes fish, but one never knows with this family.
Noah is busy in his workshop showering himself in baseless praise and building the diaper-changing table. His idea to dispense the diapers — which are store-bought disposable ones and NOT the reusable cloth ones — works like those devices "where you pull the head back, and candy pops out."
He is referring, of course, to a Pez dispenser. I really enjoyed the animation the Park Slope post-production folks (shout out to Post!) put together showing the contraption rapidly firing out the diapers.
Noah designed this table specifically with his wife, She Who Will Not Be Named, in mind. "[She] wanted something that was medieval," he says, so it was between this table or the Black Death.
Noah is very much looking forward to doing dad stuff with Elijah, and "to show him what a man is." First, they'll have to find one. ZING!
Gabe wants to learn how he might ease his fiancée's transition to living under Billy's rule, and Mother Ami is a wellspring of homespun Bush know-how, having been whisked away from her family at age 15 by a weird loner guy her mom (R.I.P. Earlene) hired to unclog the sink. Mother Ami knows how to turn blue jeans into particle accelerators and keep squirrels at bay by hanging knives in trees.
Gabe explains how there are twin beds in the Hayloft of Love, so as to leave "room in the middle for the Lord."
Gabe doesn't explain where Raquell's two children are sleeping.
Back to Birdy, unfortunately. She goes out on a solo deer hunt that, like most of this family's excursions, is long, boring, fake and bad. Birdy's not simply hunting deer, though. She's hunting for answers to the questions that trouble the very depths of her soul, and crap like that.
Birdy forgot to slather herself in mud to mask her scent, so there's no way she's bagging a buck this time.
Like the good ol' days of fake hunting pre-killed game in Alaska, we get some B-roll footage of a deer walking in the woods. Birdy claims that it's right in front of her, yet the camera reveals nothing. Oh, wait. There, behind the tree.
She shoots it, then laments the fact that the deer probably left behind a girlfriend. It probably was just about to graduate from community college and start a career in medical records transcription. Such a tragedy.
You still with me here, Zaslav? Good. It's time for Gabe to impart his Bush wisdom to Raquell. He illustrates to her how rocks can be fashioned into simple tools for cutting and piercing.
Now that Raquell's all caught up on the latest technology from 2.6 million years ago, it's time to move on to Bush hygiene. In case she should ever encounter another human being, once every few months Raquell should rid herself of that rancid stank emanating from her pie hole. One primitive form of toothpaste is baking soda. Next, Gabe will demonstrate how to mine the earth for nahcolite and trona to refine into sodium bicarbonate.
Gabe informs Raquell that soap cleans things, even that greasy mess of follicles growing out of Gabe. She should stick her head into a bucket of water, work the soap into a rich lather and flick it all over the floor of the barn. When the cameras stop rolling, she can go home and take a real shower.
Raquell has been expanding her range of emotions from feigned interest to feigned disgust.
Noah's medieval diaper dispenser is complete. The high-capacity magazine can hold up to 50,000 rounds of newborn-caliber diapers, and the system is capable of firing up to 1,000 diaper rounds per minute, effectively stopping any infant excrement in its tracks.
In the interstitial segment, we find Noah and Gabe at the antique store. Gabe finds a "pipe organ" and squeezes out some foul notes.
The ghost of Jimi Hendrix just vomited and then choked on the vomit. Besides, we were already blessed with the Jimi Hendrix of the Accordion.
Noah plays the accordion badly and Gabe sings badly, and if you want to pierce your eyeballs and your eardrums with a sharp stone, I shall not restrain you.
At long last Billy emerges from the couch to grace us with his presence. He and Birdy discuss the harvesting situation, and Birdy concedes to slaughtering some of the chickens, with the caveat that Mr. Cluckles and Waffles will be spared the ax. The beneficent and merciful Billy agrees.
Birdy musters up her courage as Gabe begins the harvest. Birdy says her goodbyes.
Then Gabe takes the chicken out back and ... shoots it? The hell? You mean Billy can't even do this the right way and shell out for the most basic poultry butchering kit? Screw all of these people.
Billy's lazy ass can't be bothered to deliver his usual episode-finale spiel. Gabe and Birdy have to do the work of shoveling the B.S. this week. I hope Billy catches Billy Brown Syndrome next week.
Thus ends another inane chapter of Alaskan Bush People. I hope it was enlightening for you, Mr. Zaslav. I am sure the Bush hygiene practices will be useful should you find the Discovery corporate jet inadequately stocked with toothpaste. Though I must strongly discourage you from replicating any of the wilderness survival techniques you've witnessed on this show, as you would assuredly succumb to starvation, exposure, injury or disease within weeks of attempting them.
The Browns like to profess that ingenuity, family, faith and simular [sic] abstractions are what keeps them persevering, when in truth it is you and your corporation that allow them to "just keep going." As such, I believe it is within your power to just make it stop.
Canceling Alaskan Bush People might cause some short-term discomfort. For a few months, Discovery interns will have to recycle many angry missives from shut-ins and septuagenarians with 12 or more cats. You will also need to reprogram 10 or more hours per week that would previously be occupied by reedited Lost Footage episodes.
Those are trivialities. It is the long-term health of the Discovery brand on which you must remain focused if you are to blaze a trail through the always-challenging and ever-evolving media universe.
I am hearing good things about this Raising Wild show.
Ryan A. Berenz
P.S.: It's time for another edition of "That's Matt!," in which we take a social media look at Matt's sober offscreen adventures:
Matt enjoys the peace and tranquility of watching a feather in the "wiend." Matt might not be on drugs, but his Instagram fans are.
Alaskan Bush People, Sundays, 9/8c, Discovery Channel