ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
On Sunday, a new reality show debuts on TLC: "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Republican strategist Karl Rove questioned whether a reality show could make Palin look more presidential. But commentator Andrew Wallenstein says the point here isn't presidential - not exactly.
ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: If Sarah Palin wanted to supply ammo to her enemies, her reality show is like handing them a cannon. But if she runs for president, "Sarah Palin's Alaska" will be looked back on as a brilliant move.
It's not a great TV show. It's really just a nature documentary mixed with footage of her day-to-day family life. And when you live in Alaska, life just happens to involve navigating treacherous terrain.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska")
Ms. SARAH PALIN ("Sarah Palin's Alaska"): So, girls, when you cast don't aim towards the bear. OK?
Unidentified Woman: Why?
Ms. PALIN: Because if you hooked the bear he would get ticked off.
WALLENSTEIN: The show offers nothing on her qualifications for higher office, which is precisely what makes it a shrewd marketing strategy. "Sarah Palin's Alaska" is just another example of politicians going a little farther out on a cultural limb than you might presume they would to promote themselves.
(Soundbite of music)
Think Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall's show or more recently, Barack Obama appearing on "The View."
(Soundbite of TV show, "The View")
Ms. JOY BEHAR: And I want to do a little lightning rod, so you just give me your first impression. Okay?
President BARACK OBAMA: Okay.
Ms. BEHAR: Do you know that Lindsay Lohan is in jail?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Pres. OBAMA: I actually know that. Yes.
Ms. BEHAR: You did?
Pres. OBAMA: I did.
Ms. BEHAR: Okay.
WALLENSTEIN: Now it may sound so tawdry to say: Sarah Palin going on a reality show. But reality show is the most meaningless term in the television business. The unscripted genre is really like eight different kinds of shows. It makes no sense to compare "Sarah Palin's Alaska" with "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" or "Dancing with the Stars." Oh, wait, Palin's daughter Bristol's on that show.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Dancing with the Stars")
Unidentified Man: Dancing the quick step, Bristol Palin and her partner Mark Ballas.
WALLENSTEIN: When some people hear reality show, they presume they're getting an all-access pass to somebody's life. And that may be true for average joes who sign their lives away to be on these shows, but not someone of Palin's stature.
And so the truth is what you're going to see on the show won't really be the truth. What it will be is a carefully choreographed projection of the kind of life Palin wants you to think she leads. And should any unguarded, unflattering moments have occurred while filming, trust me, she won't allow them to air.
Which isn't to say "Sarah Palin's Alaska" is completely sanitized. You'll see her overdosing on her BlackBerry and scolding her kids. And that's smart. If she seemed like some kind of superwoman, it would ring false, even to Palin's most devoted followers. Now if her detractors find they relate to her in a whole new way, well, then going on reality TV will have really paid off.
SIEGEL: Andrew Wallenstein is the senior editor at PaidContent.
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