Life in Alaska is often about extremes—extreme temperatures, extreme wildlife experiences, extreme lifestyles. Perhaps that’s what makes Alaska such a prime setting for reality television. Whatever the reason, reality shows tend to dominate the Alaska television landscape—with one notable exception.

If you want to dip your toe into Alaska life—through the lens of commercial television, of course—check out the following eleven television shows. You’ll have to decide for yourself how close to “reality” they come. That said, they do represent the colorful kaleidoscope of people, occupations, and lifestyles you’ll encounter in the Last Frontier.

Northern Exposure

Comedy – Genre
1990-95 – Years
DVD – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: John Corbett, Rob Morrow, and Barry Corbin
  • Filmed In: Washington state
  • Setting: The fictional town of Cicely, AK

For some folks in the ’90s, Northern Exposure was their first and only exposure to life in Alaska. This Emmy-award winning show remains one of the finest examples of what’s become a staple genre of stories set in Alaska—quirky, small-town living. Although Northern Exposure’s setting was the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, the show was filmed entirely in Washington state. However, that never seemed to dampen audience enthusiasm for the show, which launched several of its stars to future fame.

Unlike most of the other shows featured, Northern Exposure is not available to stream, due to a conflict over music royalties. If you want to catch this show, you’ll need to break out your DVD player.

Deadliest Catch

Reality – Genre
2005- – Years
Discovery – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Boat captains Sig Hansen, “Wild” Bill Wichrowski, and Phil Harris
  • Filmed In: Bering Sea & Dutch Harbor, AK
  • Setting: Bering Sea & Dutch Harbor, AK

Ahhh, Deadliest Catch: the show that started it all. In addition to inspiring a generation hopefuls to head to Alaska and try their luck as crab fishermen, Deadliest Catch also spawned a whole host of Alaska-based reality shows. Unlike some of its competition, Deadliest Catch has proven itself a survivor for 18 seasons and counting. There’s just something that continues to be compelling about this engrossing show documenting the ups, downs, adventures, and misfortunes of several crews of Alaskan crab fisherman as they make the most of the state’s crab seasons.

Alaska: The Last Frontier

Reality – Genre
2011- – Years
Discovery – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Four generations of the homesteading Kilcher family
  • Filmed In: Outside Homer, AK
  • Setting: Outside Homer, AK

The Kilcher family may have initially found notoriety as the family of Jewel Kilcher, the singer-songwriter. However, the personalities, spirit, and determination of four generations of homesteading Kilchers soon made them stars in their own right. Alaska: The Last Frontier focuses on the Kilchers’ lives as they live off their 600-acre plot of land, dealing with the harsh realities of Alaska living.

Life Below Zero

Documentary – Genre
2013- – Years
NatGeo – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Real Alaska residents scattered around the state
  • Filmed In: Fairbanks, Noorvik, Eagle, Kiwalik, Nenana, and Wiseman, AK—among other locations
  • Setting: Remote Alaska

Life Below Zero documents the highs and lows of living in Alaska’s remotest areas by following the lives of a group of Alaskans who live in various locations around the state. In 2002, the show spun off a new arm of the series entirely focused on indigenous Alaskans. Life Below Zero: First Alaskans follows several families of Alaska Natives as practice the traditional techniques and methods for survival they learned from generations of indigenous Alaskans before them.

Alaskan Bush People

Reality – Genre
2014- Years
Discovery – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Billy and Ami Brown, along with their seven children
  • Filmed In: Hoonah, AK and Palmer Lake, WA
  • Setting: Hoonah, AK and Palmer Lake, WA

Alaskan Bush People offers another take on off-the-grid living, documenting the story of the Brown family—Ami and Billy Brown and their seven children. Throughout the show, the Brown family goes through a number of changes, including a move to Washington state and the tragic loss of patriarch Billy Brown. Although the show has been criticized for being less true-to-life than comparable shows, fans continue to flock to the show.

Bering Sea Gold

Reality – Genre
2012- – Years
Discovery – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: A rotating cast of gold-seekers
  • Filmed In: Nome, AK
  • Setting: Nome, AK

King crab and salmon aren’t the only valuable items in the waters surrounding Alaska. Bering Sea Gold follows the saga of gold hunters as they sluice, dredge, and dive for gold on the floor of the Bering Sea. The show offers similar high-seas drama to Deadliest Catch, with a slightly different focus.

The Last Alaskans

Reality – Genre
2015-2019 – Years
Discovery – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Several Alaskans living the remote wilderness lifestyle
  • Filmed In: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, AK
  • Setting: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, AK

The Last Alaskans chronicles the lives of the last residents of the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Whereas some of the other Alaska-based reality shows have been criticized for being more fiction than reality, The Last Alaskans earned praise for its realistic depiction of bush living in Alaska.

Ice Road Truckers

Reality – Genre
2007-2017 – Years
History – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Truck drivers with nerves of steel
  • Filmed In: Canada and Dalton Highway, AK
  • Setting: Canada and Dalton Highway, AK

Alaska’s Dalton Highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Naturally, it made for riveting reality television during Seasons 3–6 of the show Ice Road Truckers. If you want to get a taste of what truckers deal with in northern Alaska and remote parts of Canada, tune in for some riveting television. (And if you’re considering driving yourself to Alaska, don’t miss our article on getting your car to Alaska—in one piece!)

Yukon Men

Reality – Genre
2012-2017 – Years
Discovery – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Just as it sounds, the show follows a hardy bunch of men living in interior Alaska
  • Filmed In: Tanana, AK
  • Setting: Tanana, AK

Yukon Men focuses on the lives of several outdoorsman who live in Tanana, AK, population 249. The show details all the activities of the inhabitants’ daily lives, including fishing, hunting, logging, trapping, and training sled dogs. Although the show was canceled after seven seasons, it’s still available to stream online.

Alaska State Troopers

Reality – Genre
2009-2015 – Years
NatGeo – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Troopers from all over the state
  • Filmed In: Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, Wasilla, and other locations
  • Setting: Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, Wasilla, and other locations

As you might imagine, being an Alaska State Trooper is anything but ordinary. Search and rescue missions, angry bears, dangerous weather conditions—these troopers see it all, and Alaska State Troopers allows you to follow along with all the action. Interestingly enough, although there was plenty of interest in continuing the series, the state’s Department of Public Safety declined to continue the show in the interest of “focus[ing] on the job of providing public safety without any added outside distractions.”

Sarah Palin’s Alaska

Reality – Genre
2010 – Years
Purchase – Where to Watch

Fast Facts:

  • Notable Cast Members: Sarah, Todd, and Bristol Palin
  • Filmed In: Wasilla, among other locations in Alaska
  • Setting: Wasilla, among other locations in Alaska

She’s a polarizing figure, but if you want to get to know former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin better, start with her reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. You’ll see Palin hunt caribou, go salmon fishing, take the family on a white water rafting trip, and more. Given Palin’s Senatorial aspirations, the show might see a revival in interest, despite being canceled after a single season.

Life (as Television Sees It) in Alaska

In our opinion, the best way to know what life is really like in Alaska is to move here. However, if you want to catch a glimpse into the varied personalities and lifestyles you might encounter in the Last Frontier, these shows are a great place to start. At the very least, they can offer some excellent entertainment from the warmth of your current location—or some solace during a long, dark Alaska winter night.

Thinking of moving to Alaska? If you’re ready to see what life is really like here, we’d be happy to help you get your belongings to the Last Frontier. Just reach out to our experts for a free quote to get started.

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