Alaskan Bush People is one of Discovery's most beloved shows, yet fans have long since given up on believing every word of it. The show portrays the Brown family as an off-the-grid, wilderness-dwelling clan with no ties to the real world, and that has been thoroughly disproven.
The truth of the Brown family's ties to civilization has leaked out over the years little by little, like air escaping from a balloon. This has run parallel with the show's rise in popularity, until followers were so dedicated to the show that they hardly cared what was real and what was fake anymore.
These days, even the most die-hard fans accept that Alaskan Bush People is more of a themed reality show than a true lifestyle documentary. They accept that, having fallen in love with the family and their stories over the years.
Still, there are some who want a full accounting of exactly what is real and what is not, and that can be hard to pin down. Th Browns do not pretend to be completely off the grid anymore — they operate Instagram accounts, go out to public events and rely on the services of a civilized society. Last year, they even moved to California for a time so that Ami Brown could be treated for cancer. The story was compelling, despite being far from the family's usual on-screen behavior, and fans stuck with them.
Here is a look at some of what is real and what is fake from the Brown family on Alaskan Bush People.
Fake: Alaska Natives
While they identify strongly with Alaska and its untamed wilderness, the Brown family does not hail from there originally. They have not even been there that long, in fact, and where they come from could not be more different from the far-northern frontier.
Billy and Ami Brown were both born and raised in Texas, according to a report by Ranker. There they met and started their family before heading as far north as they could.
One reliable facet of the TV show is the Brown family's nicknames for each other. They are known for calling each other by names like Bam Bam, Birdie, Bear and Rainey. This is true to life for the eccentric group, who use these names even off camera.
One of the main complaints from the show's critics is that it portrays the Brown family living in isolation, from from society and man-made amenities. In reality, In Touch Weekly reported that the Browns are never that far from the general populous. Their first filming location on the show was reportedly just half a mile from from a local pizza restaurant.
Another filming location on the show has been called by the Anchorage Daily News, who claimed that the Brown family was less than ten miles from a town called Copper Center. This puts a bit of a humorous spin on the show's dramatization of their remote getaways.
Real: Matt's Issues
Sadly, the show has not embellished he substance abuse issues of the Brown family's eldest son, Matt. He has been very upfront about his struggles with alcoholism and his various trips to rehab, and every word of it was true.
Ironically, in spite of living out in the woods, Brown was a public figure while dealing with these issues, making it all the harder for him.
Overall, the family encampment known as Browntown is basically for show. According to Radar Online, the Brown family only films in the cluster of huts and out-buildings on the show. At the end of the day, they return to homes that are not so different from those in the lower 48 states.
As a matter of fact, there is some question of the Brown family's ownership of Browntown overall. Billy Brown once claimed that the homestead was purchased using "a Special Use Permit on the [Hoonah Ranger District] Tongass National Forest." However, Channel Guide Magazine reported that the Browns do not own the land they film on, and others say that it is nearly impossible to lease public lands.
Real: Wilderness Accidents
While they may not live in the wilderness full time, the danger the Brown family faces when they are out there is very real. The cast and crew have always battled the elements to film their show, and according to Nicki Swift, Matt Brown was once hospitalized for a very real incident while trying to move a refrigerator.
Fake: Federal Funds
While the Browns profess a self-reliant ethos, they have tried to take advantage of federal financial assistance, including some that did not belong to them. According to ABC News, both Billy and Joshua "Bam Bam" Brown have been investigated over untruthful applications for federal aid.
The two reportedly paid more than $20,000 in restitution for the financial help. They were meant to serve 30 days in jail as well, although they were allowed to serve the time at home with ankle monitors on instead.
Real: Disdain From Other Alaskans
Many other Alaskan residents harbor a very real disdain for Alaskan Bush People and for the Brown family themselves. Many locals in Hoonah, Alaska have been quoted over the years saying that they resent the dramatic portrayal of their home state on TV and the false sense of isolation in the show.
Even now, with the Brown family residing in northern Washington state, their neighbors are not pleased with the show. Inquisitr reports that the other residents of Omak, Washington don't care for the reality TV production in their backyard.
Fake: Hired Actress
One of the biggest falsehoods portrayed on the show came in Season 5, when Noah Brown briefly had Browntown to himself. The young man took the opportunity to invite a girl he knew from the lower 48 states up for a visit, where they had an awkward wilderness date.
The only problem is that the girl was not just someone he had met on a trip south. According to a report by Ranker, she was Karynna Kauffman, a professional actress with several other credits outside the show. It seems more likely that Kauffman was hired for the show than that she simply knew Noah outside of the program.
Real: Billy and Ami's Young Marriage
One undeniable part of the show is the connection between Billy and Ami Brown. The couple has a connection that resonates with fans, and their dreams of a frontier family have struck a chord with audiences. However, not everyone knows how young Ami was when they met.
According to Nicki Swift, Billy Brown became enamored of Ami when she was just 15 years old. Billy is nine years older than his wife, making him 24 at the time, yet he was intent on marrying Ami. The early start to their romance is an aspect that most fans would rather not think about.
Fake: Humble Beginnings
Finally, as much as the Brown family seems to live off the land and eschew materialism in the series, they are not poor by any stretch of the imagination. According to Nicki Swift, Brown comes from a very wealthy family in Texas, who were known to buy private boats and planes when times were good.
Brown's family members left him little when they passed away, but today he and his family draw a considerable paycheck for their work on TV. His personal wealth is estimated at half a million dollars, and he even bought a cottage in Colorado for his son earlier this year.
Alaskan Bush People has been renewed for a tenth season, but no release date has been announced yet.