Updated at 8:15 a.m. on November 11.
The reviews are in: Sarah Palin’s Alaska is merely a calculated step in her path to becoming the 2012 GOP presidential nominee... maybe.
Critics have fumbled with the former vice presidential candidate’s reality show, set to premiere Sunday on TLC. Most are sure that Palin has a reason for breaking from her anti-media reputation and allowing a camera crew to dissect her family’s everyday life, but they seem unable to pigeonhole just what that motive is.
“Does showing this image on reality TV humanize a controversial public figure while burnishing her tough-woman cred?" Time's James Poniewozik asked. “Or does it weaken a politician who already faces doubts about her qualifications for high office? That depends...”
The New Yorker’s Nancy Franklin: “I can’t say what Palin is really up to with this show. She seems to want viewers to think that she’s conflicted about public life.”
The uncertainty isn’t without justification.
In one clip, Palin caters to her signature political rhetoric: “I love watching these mama bears. They've got a nature humankind could learn from.”
In another, she eschews the political lifestyle altogether. During one of her many excursions communing with nature, Palin says she would “rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office.”
The producers seem determined to portray the Palins as backwood adventure-seekers. In the first two minutes of the pilot episode, Palin scales a mountain, steers a dogsled, wrestles a fish, navigates a four-wheeler, kayaks, shoots a gun, whitewater rafts, pilots an airplane over the Alaskan mountainscape, and casually floats by a bear fight on her fishing boat.
"You can see Russia from here... almost," she laughs, poking fun at her infamous gaffe during the 2008 election cycle.
Whatever her intentions, it seems likely that the show will at least buy her good graces with her home state. In the opening, she cites "meeting the hard-working Alaskans who call the state their home" as being among her favorite pastimes.
So what is Palin up to with this show? See for yourself—below is a TLC promotional, as well as an exclusive from the episode to debut this weekend.
TLC Promotional for Sarah Palin’s Alaska
TLC Clip of Sarah Palin’s Alaska: “The Mama Bear”