Wild West Alaska is a reality TV series produced by Jupiter Entertainment. The series airs on the Animal Planet network and follows the gun-toting, hunting owners and staff of Wild West Guns. Proclaimed as Alaska’s largest and most lucrative gun shop, it is advertised as “the premiere destination for Alaskans living off the grid”.
Premiering on January 13th of 2013, the series garnered relatively little attention from the media. You will be hard-pressed to find a professional critic review of #WildWestAlaska, although the series currently has an IMDb score of 6.7/10 based on 88 user votes. Jupiter Entertainment also received three Telly Awards for the production in 2013, however.
While the series claims to be a reality show, it has been compared to Duck Dynasty in that it is “obviously and delightfully scripted”. One astute viewer remarked that it was an odd addition to a network home to shows such as My Cat From Hell, Dogs 101 and Whale Wars. Despite the obvious scripting and odd channel choice, #WWA has rapidly become an Animal Planet fan-favorite.
The show was not always so blatantly scripted, however. It seemed to become more obvious as the series went on, with many viewers noting that it simply wasn’t the same. One blogger, in particular, noted that the shift towards written scenes seemed more pronounced during the third season premiere. The blogger elaborated that #WildWestAlaska used to be focused on the crew working on guns and hunting in scenic Alaskan settings. The blogger said that “[the show] was interesting, and the cast was entertaining […].However, that was not the #WWA we saw on last night’s premiere”.
Other viewers have additionally noted that the production of the series seems shabby in comparison to other Alaskan realities shows (such as Alaska: The Last Frontier and Deadliest Catch). Despite all the criticism, other reviewers were slightly more positive, claiming that the show is “so bad that it’s almost good”.
The loyalty of the fans seems to have been meaningful, as the series is currently in its fourth season. The mixed reviews have not been the only controversial aspect of the show, however. In November of 2013, it was reported that Jim West, star of the series and owner of Wild West Guns, was charged by Alaskan State Troopers for 17 hunting violations. West’s defense lawyer claimed that his client was targeted by the troopers. He said their motive was jealousy and competition. At the time, the state troopers were starring in their own reality television series (entitled Alaska State Troopers) that was being broadcast by the National Geographic Channel, a direct competitor of Animal Planet. The troopers halted their participation with the show soon after the lawyer’s allegations.
While all these facts combined may not seem to bode well for WWA, Alaskan series, in particular, have one big advantage going for them. In 2008, Sarah Palin presented a film incentive program designed to encourage “feature films, create local jobs and publicize the state’s charms”. Producers filming in Alaska are eligible to receive one-third (or more) of their production costs subsidized by the government. From 2008 to 2013, the State of Alaska refunded 44 million
Despite the less than stellar ratings, WWA has a devoted fan following on the Animal Planet network, but the channel has yet to make any comment regarding a fifth season renewal or cancelation.
The current season finale of Wild West Alaska, entitled “The New Girl” is slated for February 11th, 2016.