My day job is working as a professor of mass communications and journalism; in that role, I teach students, for example, how the TV/cable business works. So I am professionally interested in Bristol's new reality show, "Life's a Trip," on the Lifetime cable network.
I can see why the decision-makers at Lifetime liked the idea of this show. The production costs of any reality show are low compared to a scripted show; and the costs of this particular reality show must be low compared to, say, "Jersey Shore," which has a much larger cast. So for a relatively small investment, the producers could test the waters and see if America's fascination with the Palin family was strong enough to keep a reality show like Bristol's afloat.
Also, I think the producers were wondering if Bristol, along her sister Willow, who seems to be a regular on the show, might replicate the success of the Kardashian girls – Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé – who have achieved great success in the reality show "Keeping up with the Kardasians."
Alas, Bristol's show has gotten off to a slow start. Its initial rating were so weak that it was quickly bumped out of its prime-time slot. The reality of Bristol's life as depicted in the show thus far has not been riveting, according to reviewers, although the mechanical-bull-riding scene and subsequent confrontation with a rude heckler sounded like pretty entertaining stuff.
Confession time: I almost never watch TV, except snippets via YouTube or Hulu. But someone sent me a link to Bristol's last show, because Bristol was shown talking to Sarah via a cell phone, and Sarah was talking about me: she told Bristol that a "professor" had placed ads in Alaska newspapers trying to get to the truth about Trig's birth – the point being to suggest disbelief that anyone could think Trig's birth was faked. It's true that I placed such ads early in the year, but they produced no results.
Sarah clearly wanted to use her daughter's show to suggest my research is nuts, and that's par for the course: I'm trying to expose her birth hoax, and she's trying to keep the truth from coming out. I'm not surprised she did that.
But what did surprise me was that I found her daughters, as least as revealed in their on-screen personas, to be quite likable. They're smart, engaging and pretty, and they seem like they might be fun to be around. That did not make me want to watch the show at any great length, but it does make me think Bristol and Willow just might be able to become the Klondike Kardashians.
This reality show of Bristol's may not last long. But I think she has achieved a critical mass of fame, plus has the drive and the shrewdness (presumably from her mother), to keep opportunities coming her way. Willow does not have much of a track record yet, but she is arguably even prettier than Bristol, and I suspect she'll be able to ride Bristol's coattails to success, just as Kim has been able to pull Kourtney and Khloé along in her wake of celebrity.
Celebrity is a curious thing in our culture. At some point you become famous mainly for being famous, like the Kardashians, and that fame alone can sustain a career if you have some modest attributes such as likability and physical attractiveness.
And something else Bristol has going for her is that she presumably appeals to a conservative viewing demographic that yearns for stars outside of the usual liberal Hollywood orbit. In that regard, Bristol might be viewed as the anti-Kardashian, and as such she may be capable of filling a need for some entertainment providers.
I think Bristol has reached the point where she will continue to find opportunities for years as an anti-Kardashian avatar. And she may help not just Willow but eventually Piper (if this is what she wants) achieve some modest success in the fame machine that feeds our media and entertainment industries.
And if that happens, far be in from me to criticize the Palin girls for taking advantage of the opportunity Sarah’s crazily careening career has afforded them.