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'Palin's Alaska' gets big ratings

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  November 15, 2010 01:20 PM

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"Sarah Palin's Alaska" performed well last night. The premiere of the eight-part series drew 4.92 million viewers, which was TLC's biggest series launch ever. It wasn't TLC's most watched episode ever, though; that, um, honor belongs to "Jon & Kate Plus Eight," which drew some 10 million viewers around the time the couple was breaking up.

Of course, the real ratings test comes this coming Sunday. Most shows lose viewers after their hyped premieres, while the lucky few grow from good word of mouth. TBS's "Conan," for example, premiered with 4.2 million viewers last Monday, but slipped consistently across the week to finish with 2 million on Thursday night -- an average of 2.9 million viewers for the week.

In the advance hype for "Sarah Palin's Alaska," executive producer Mark Burnett described the reality show as "completely non political" in the Daily Beast. "It's absolutely not trying to show one thing or the other. She is showing everything." But I found the premiere pretty obviously shaped to show Palin in a certain flattering and defensive light. Here's my review, in which I call the series "one of the most naked examples of image-crafting I’ve seen in a while. With the conventions of reality TV at her service, the former vice presidential candidate delivers a portrait of herself, her family, and her home state that’s relentless in its messages of wholesomeness and in its justifications of her past."



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