Producers of reality TV show get big taste of Alaska

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Producers of a new reality TV show based on the notion that Alaska has plenty of attractive bachelors looking for marriage had hoped for a taste of winter. They got it.

October dumped snow and drove temperatures to 10 below, turning the Kenai River Valley into a land of snow-flocked mountains towering over emerald Kenai Lake.

''We were shooting outdoors in Alaska, which is not exactly the smartest thing,'' said Eric Schotz, chief executive of LMNO Productions and executive producer of what is to be called ''I Want A Husband: Alaska.''

From their base camp at the rustic but comfy Kenai Princess Lodge, crews more accustomed to balmy Hollywood made hasty road trips to Anchorage outdoors stores, where they discovered some odd-looking white rubber boots.

''The concept of bunny boots is foreign to Los Angeles production companies. They're ugly but really effective,'' Schotz concluded. The crew snapped up a dozen pairs.

Once geared for conditions, the crew set about its mission: film the action as a suite of Alaska men wooed five women from the Lower 48.

The women were supposed to be ready and willing to move up to Alaska and pursue a relationship, should one develop.

The men, young and old, came from across Alaska. Among them were a park ranger, a police officer, a commercial fisher, a professional snowboarder, a diver and a pilot.

Filming began in mid-October and ended Nov. 12. The show, destined to be the latest entry in the reality TV bandwagon, is to air on the Fox network in seven hour-long segments by January or February.

Couples rode horseback, went dogsledding and snowmachining, took horse-drawn carriage rides, hiked, gave each other massages and had dinner.

''The show is 'National Geographic' meets 'Sex in the City' and 'Northern Exposure,' '' Schotz said.

It was also a little bit of ''Green Acres'' as up to 110 members of the cast and crew invaded tiny Cooper Landing, population 300.

The crew tried to keep a low profile, huddling largely within the lodge compound, high on a knob overlooking the Kenai River. The lodge's RV park was converted into a helipad, and it also housed portable buildings for the production team, camera crews, art, lighting, prop and cast departments.

A security detail from Los Angeles was posted at the entrance.

''It's too secretive to the point it's humorous,'' said David Rhode, a free-lance wildlife photographer who lives along Kenai Lake.

A month in Alaska seemed to soften the citified crew, said Glenn Sackett, who owns Kenai Grill, a restaurant with spruce-burled tables that serves big burgers and rib platters. His place became the hangout for off-duty TV people.

''They started out like typical cheechakos,'' Sackett said.

''At first they wanted to know if we had any Perrier water,'' he said. A month later, ''They were good ol' boys -- Gimme' a beer.' ''

Many of the dates were filmed in Girdwood, Seward, the Kenai Fjords, Hope, Cooper Landing, the Susitna Glacier and Soldotna. The crew also built a new observation deck at the Kenai lodge and shot several scenes there.

Schotz and LMNO, which stands for ''Leave My Name Off,'' have produced other reality TV shows such as ''Boot Camp,'' the CBS series ''Kids Say The Darndest Things,'' hosted by Bill Cosby, and ''Guinness World Records: Primetime.''

Schotz said he couldn't talk much about the show's format and would not reveal if any of the women wound up falling for an Alaska man.

While the cliche about Alaska men starving for female company hasn't been exactly true since the Eisenhower administration, the show still attracted a fair share of likable guys, Schotz said.

''This is about romance, it's about love,'' he said. ''It's about putting people together rather than ripping them apart.''

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