Discovering Sarah Palin

06/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


This week, I discovered Sarah Palin in a strange place. She showed up as the star of a planned new reality show on The Learning Channel, a unit of Discovery Communications. The show is called Sarah Palin's Alaska.

"It's surprising that Discovery Communications, parent company of such cable television channels as Animal Planet, The Discovery Channel and TLC -- and known for their stunning wildlife-focused shows -- would choose to embrace such a controversial and anti-wildlife persona as Sarah Palin."
--Rodger Schlickeisen
President, Defenders of Wildlife

That sound you hear? That would be the huge vacuum forming between Discovery and its viewers. Discovery seems to care about nature and Sarah Palin wants to drill oil everywhere and kill all animals.

As Jimmy Kimmel put it, "Her baby seal risotto is really fantastic."

She'll be able to buy lots of baby seal steaks with the reported $1 million per episode paycheck she'll receive. Discovery wants to put a lot of money in Palin's pocket.

Ok, I'm going to put a little Valium in my herbal tea, try to keep the politics out of this and just look at the message Discovery is sending.

Your brand is what you stand for. What does Discovery stand for? Ratings? Even though Sarah Palin is popular with nutcases, are there really enough nutcases to merit putting her on Discovery for the ratings? I thought CNN was the only really desperate network. (Still working to keep the politics out of this, sorry.)

According to Defenders of Wildlife, Sarah Palin fought against protections for whales and polar bears. She continues to support hunters who fly in small planes to gun down wolves from the air. I wish I was present at the network meeting when somebody said, "Sarah Palin is the perfect person to tell me about animals." As in we want unstable, trigger-happy Glenn Beck to talk to us about terrorism.

Putting a controversial person on TV is an old game. It comes about when smart programming executives sit in a conference room, drink vodka straight from the bottle and say "let's make some noise and hope somebody pays attention."

We expect brands to be true to themselves. From Fox, we expect overheated pseudo-patriotic gumbo. From the broadcast networks, we expect some Bachelors and Survivors and other diversions. Television is a numbers game steered by advertisers. Ratings -- good. Breaking your brand -- bad.

Breaking the brand would never happen to good old psychotic uncle Fox. Fox is never going to break its brand because we don't expect Fox to stand for anything, except maybe scaring people. They don't worry about facts or truth over at Fox. They just need to find the next big mouth. They just need to make some noise. Easy.

Different deal with Discovery. Discovery stands for something; curiosity, knowledge, exploration and compassion. Go ahead, Discovery, make noise but also examine your motives. You have to, because you stand for something. We want to depend on you for that.

You can sign the Defenders of Wildlife petition against Sarah Palin's show by clicking here.

Photo credit: auburnxc via Flickr and creative commons.