In recent years, Alaska has attracted the attention of several reality productions, and among the twenty or so reality TV shows to be produced in the 49th state, “Alaska: The Last Frontier” is one of Discovery Channel’s most successful.
The show is unique from others such as ‘Deadliest Catch’ and ‘Alaska Gold Rush’, as it follows the lives of the Kilcher family on their Homestead nearly 12 miles outside of the young town Homer. While perhaps not as dramatic as the Kardashians, the show provides suspenseful entertainment centred on the family’s survival as pioneers in the last frontier.
Living without modern amenities such as plumbing and electricity, the family survives living off the land by farming, hunting and other practices. The primary focus of the show centres on the family’s preparation for the harsh and extended Alaskan winters and filming occurs throughout the year.
The show is currently in its tenth season, which premiered earlier this year in late October, and first appeared on screens in December 2011 nearly nine years ago.
The show is popular with a variety of audiences in the other American states, earning two Emmy Award nominations among other accolades, of which the show won an Award of Distinction at the Communicator Awards ceremony.
The interesting aspect that the producers chose to entertain its audiences with, following the survival of the family, keeps fanatics glued to the screen. Regardless of its popularity, there are several interesting facts about the show, and the Kilchers, that many followers don’t know.
Although the show does not cause many controversies and has not been on the wrong side of the law like many other reality shows, these fun facts would still entertain fanatics of Alaska: The Last Frontier, but, as a fair warning, it might provide a new perspective on the reality of the Kilcher family.
The Kilcher Family Jewel
The Kilchers have their very own celeb in the family, and although she made a guest appearance on the show, fans who have not seen every episode may not be in the loop about who she is. Of Course, it is no other than American singer, songwriter, actress, and author, Jewel Kilcher.
Sadly though, there is a reason why the folk music star rarely appears on the show, and it’s because of her dark past she wrote about in her book ‘The Architecture of All Abundance: Seven Foundations of Prosperity’.
She is the daughter of Atz Kilcher, and the grandchild of the Kilcher patriarch Otto, born from a previous relationship Atz had with Lenedra Carrol. Lenedra abandoned her family when Jewel was only eight years old, leaving her to grow up on the Kilcher Homestead with her alcoholic father.
Jewel describes in her book the abuse she lived through, and at the age of 15, Jewel left home.
Living in her car, Jewel worked odd jobs to get by, until her breakthrough as a musician, all the time estranged from her family.
She has since recovered her broken relationship with Atz but remains estranged from her mother, due to legal issues that occurred while Lenedra worked as her manager.
PETA Is No Fan of The Kilchers
Not too long ago, he environmental association, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known by their acronym PETA, held a vendetta against the Kilcher family, specifically against Cristina and Atz,. Honestly, it does not take much to anger the animal rights organisation, but in this case, PETA might win the favour of the people.
After hunting a bear, and filming the event for an episode of the show, PETA went after the Kilchers and even called Atz Lee a coward for the atrocious act they committed.
— PETA (@peta) August 7, 2015
The Vice President of PETA, Lisa Lange, associated the act as something similar to the tragic Walter Palmer case that occurred back in July 2015.
Palmer was the hunter who tracked down and killed the lion Cecil of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. It was an act that sparked global anger and updated the legal restrictions of hunting lions, a now declared endangered species.
While bears pose a threat for people living in certain areas where ursine populations are in abundance, it was not the act itself that angered PETA but rather the means of how the Kilchers went about it. PETA, however, went on to discourage hunting in general, saying it should become a part of history and not modern practice.
The Only Legal Issue To Date
While shows like ‘American Choppers’, ‘Pawn Stars’, and ‘Gold Rush’ are famous for legal disputes, whether against third party organisations or amongst members of the cast – “Alaska: The Last Frontier” had only one legal issue to date.
This issue stemmed from the aforementioned bear hunting incident that angered PETA. During the 16th episode of the fourth season, Atz Kilcher and other members of the show go on a bear hunt, and while it is not illegal to hunt bears, they infringed against Alaskan laws by employing the use of a helicopter.
Either they weren’t aware of the Alaskan state laws, or simply acted carelessly because of the desperation that specific episode wanted the viewers to believe. Whatever the case, the incident caught the attention of law enforcement, and the Kilchers faced associated charges of breaking said law.
However, during the settlement of the legal dispute, the court dismissed its case against the Kilchers, and instead prosecuted the production company responsible for creating Alaska: The Last Frontier. Wilma TV Inc received a fine for the hunting violation amounting to $17, 500.
Alaskans Hate The Show
“Alaska: The Last Frontier” might be popular around the world and especially with audiences in the other US states, but in Alaska, the people share a mutual dislike for the show. It’s not only Alaska: The Last Frontier that is loathed by the Alaskan natives, but among the many shows centred around Alaskan life, the Kilcher families day-to-day life is at the top of their lists.
One of the biggest reasons for hating Alaskan reality television is the damage that many of the shows do to the already bad reputation the state has. The state is isolated and distant from the rest of America, and travelling to Alaska is expensive.
Thus, Alaska is not a place that many Americans would want to visit, and one of the biggest reasons comes from the harsh cold and thick snow. These features may only be popular with adventurers out to find the best slopes and mountains to ski.
Shows like ‘Ultimate Survival Alaska” and “Alaska: The Final Frontier” that depicts the worst conditions, only adds to the desolate reputation of the state. According to the natives, Alaska is not as bad a place, and it has all the amenities and modern features that the other states possess.
Like all reality television shows, some of the events are either manipulated for dramatic purposes or creatively adapted to entertain the viewers at home. “Alaska: The Last Frontier” is no different, and this is the part that will place a different perspective on the show. However, the show has no script, not exactly at least.
Although none of the show’s dialogue is written beforehand, except perhaps the narration, the producers establish preset events that have to take place.
In doing so, the cast knows what should happen on the show before the filming commences, but this still leaves room for actual events to add to the drama. Other creative work added to the reality of the Kilcher family’s everyday life is the exaggeration of their circumstances.
Unlike other people like the Kilchers, who have chosen an isolated life living off the land, the family are much safer than the narrator would like the audience to believe. Even more, the show’s dramatic suspense is added to by excessive production and editing.
Some of the scenes depicted on camera are not true reflections of what happened. In most cases, the producers often edit scenes and cut them together and add music, all to create more suspense and thrill.
Not As Isolated
Another thing that might water down the drama and excitement for viewers is the realisation that the Kilcher family is not as isolated from the rest of the world as portrayed on the show. However, the family did choose to isolate themselves, and they don’t rely on the services and luxuries of service providers.
About twelve miles from the Kilcher Homestead, one would find the town of Homer, merely a twenty-minute drive away. The town is still fairly young, having been established in the mid-sixties, and is still under development. Although a small town, home to about 5000 people, it still offers basic and a few advanced services which include a supermarket.
Should the need ever become too much, the family could simply buy whatever they need to survive, and it’s not as if the family don’t have the money to do it. The town also boasts a public library, two newspapers, radio stations, and a collection of schools.
Simply put, the Kilchers are not as isolated or far removed from the world, and that is just another exaggeration the producers added.
Atz Lee’s Serious Accident
Atz Lee appears on the show as one of the leading figures on the Kilcher Homestead, and isn’t known for taking things easy. In fact, Atz Lee lives a very adventurous life, especially when considering the lifestyle choices he’s made. At one point during the show, Atz Lee was seriously injured, and it almost led to the cancellation of the show.
Without his prominent presence on the homestead, things might even fall apart. His injuries even caused him to miss his court appearance of the hearing about their illegal hunting infringement, but thankfully he pulled through and was back on the show as fit as ever.
The injuries he sustained happened while hiking in the Otter Cave, back in 2015.
After taking a nasty fall, Atz Lee broke more bones than most unfortunate souls do in their entire life. He broke an arm, a shoulder, hip, ankle, and suffered several crushed ribs on both sides of his chest. A few of the ribs even punctured his lungs, leaving Atz Lee hospitalised for a lengthy period. With the support of his family, friends and fans, he pulled through in the end.
About The Children
While the show raised several questions about life in Alaska, one question on the minds of fans was concerned with Atz Lee and Jane Kilcher’s children. Because the children hardly ever make an appearance on the show, fans expressed their concerns about the children’s well-being and questioned why the children were kept off-camera.
The two children in question are Atz Lee’s son Etienne, who is also known as Steven, and daughter Piper. The simple reason why the teenagers don’t appear on the show is that their parents respect their privacy, and don’t want them to appear.
Piper, in fact, refuses to appear on camera, and while Etienne appeared a couple of times, Atz Lee and Jane prefer not to infringe on their lives.
After receiving negative comments on social media, with viewers complaining that she is lazy and questioning her maternal abilities, Jane responded and fought back against all the hate mail. Despite being conservative on social media, and allowing the world only to view her life on television, Jane stated in her backlash against the online haters that she wanted her privacy, adding that she is not the lazy person people think she is, and demanded that people respect her children, not to wish them harm.
Her reaction to all the negativity seemed quite understandable, since no one likes harassment in any form, but being a reality television personality, Jane should realise it comes with the territory. However, fans could still be more considerate of the Kilcher family’s privacy.
Jewel and Her Mother’s Troubled History
Although not related to the show, it might be worth mentioning the history Jewel Kilcher has with her mother. As mentioned before, Jewel lived with her abusive father, but after Lenedra left her family, she did at least stay in contact with Jewel.
Then, when Jewel’s singing career took off, Lenedra worked as the folk singer’s manager until 2010. After discovering that her mother embezzled money and stole from her, Jewel dismissed her and cut all ties.
Since the two lost contact they are now completely estranged. Sad as it might be, Jewel is doing far better. In 2015, the 26-year-old singer achieved the 30 million record sales milestone, and her career keeps growing from strength to strength.
Regardless of all the discoveries made here, fans of Alaska: The Last Frontier can still feel free to enjoy the latest episodes. Sure, things might be a little exaggerated, but the Kilcher’s can still be very entertaining to watch. However, the suspense is not entirely creative reality, since life on the last frontier can in fact be as difficult as the show wants you to believe.