The Alaskan Bush People series brings us yet another popular reality TV family embroiled in a major scandal. Again, one involving a trip to jail.
In case you missed it, the Brown clan found itself on the wrong side of the Alaskan court system when it was learned they were ripping off the state. They were claiming oil revenue — to which they weren’t entitled — during years the family members weren’t Alaskan residents. Not only that, they’d not been recognized as such since the year 2009.
This fact brought up something curious to people who are only casually familiar with Alaskan Bush People: The fact that the Brown people weren’t in the state of Alaska. That and the fact that they spent significant chunks of time not even being residents in the area. This fact makes the Alaskan Bush People series seem very disingenuous.
— Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) January 12, 2016
After taking the time to watch the series, it was learned that there were a couple of major reasons why the family is no longer in the state — at least, not at this point. The most recent Alaskan Bush People season ended on something of a cliffhanger, with the Brown family allegedly driven from their home by bears and Billy Brown suffering serious health problems off-screen.
These health problems were brought up by Brown’s legal defense in protest of sending the series’ patriarch to jail.
“It’s one thing to have to tell your kids that they’ve lost everything, but we’ve got that and more…” pic.twitter.com/hYS07JCbKN
— Alaskan Bush People (@AlaskanBushPPL) January 7, 2016
Alaska Dispatch News reports that despite health concerns, 63-year-old Billy and his 31-year-old son, Joshua “Bam Bam” Brown, ultimately plead guilty to “one misdemeanor count of second-degree unsworn falsification” as part of a plea agreement.
The agreement has each of the two men serving a 30-day sentence. The elder Brown must pay “$7,956 in improperly obtained dividends” and “a $10,000 fine.” His son has to cough up “$1,174 in dividends,” but his fine is $2,000. In addition to the jail time and nearly $20,000 paid back to Alaskan citizens, these Alaskan Bush People stars can never again claim a share of the state’s oil revenue.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg ruled that the pair had until April 15 to turn themselves in and begin serving their jail sentence. The good news for the family is that rather than heading to prison, Pallenberg offered up alternatives, such as “halfway houses or electronic monitoring.” It also meant that because these two Browns took the plea, charges would be dropped against other members of the family.
Son Joshua Brown reportedly was very concerned about his father’s health and had initially agreed to do his father’s sentence, but was advised by Kirsten Swanson, a defense lawyer for the family, that it wasn’t part of the agreement that was worked out.
— CNN Entertainment (@CNNent) January 12, 2016
This news — and Billy’s health condition — certainly raises a lot of questions regarding the future of the Alaskan Bush People series. Despite the controversy, the series has a large following. CNN writes that a Discovery Channel spokesperson had no comment about the case.
However, all signs seem to point to Alaskan Bush People picking up again at some point. First, even with people outraged at the Browns and calling attention to the series’ authenticity, it hasn’t slowed down interest in their lives. This seems to be the nature of reality TV shows, the “reality” of which is often skewed. People watch to be entertained, which often encourages networks to take creative license with how individuals are represented on their channel.
Also, it’s worth noting that not every reality TV scandal ends in cancellation. Teresa Giudice of Housewives of New Jersey went to jail for fraud, and she will likely be returning to the series. Also, despite an upsetting interview given by Phil Robertson, it didn’t get Duck Dynasty taken off the air.
Unless a reality TV family is mixed up in something truly unpalatable to audiences (like child molestation and forced incest), it appears that ratings will remain the deciding factor in whether the cast survives to a new season. As high as ratings were for Alaskan Bush People, there’s a good chance that the Discovery Channel will keep the door open to at least one new season.
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[Image via screen grab from the Discovery Channel/YouTube]