By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Nov 15, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Successful TV needs more than pretty pictures to keep an audience, it requires drama or comedy and a strong cast of characters.

Sunday night's premiere of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" offered just two-thirds of the formula.

Alaska is, indeed, a beautiful setting for the eight-part "reality" series starring the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor. And Palin, along with husband, Todd, and the kids, are definitely characters.

But if the first hour is any indication, there's little tension, or drama, or laughs, or even much of a story here.

The only tension connected to Palin is the "will she?" or "won't she?" question about 2012. That won't be resolved in this TV show.

Instead, we get bits of their lives, mostly the fun parts, like mama grizzly Sarah taking 9-year-old Piper and her little cousin, McKinley, off to a session of fishing and bear watching.

There are domestic scenes, like the mama grizzly's attempts to keep a visiting boy in clear view while her 16-year-old second daughter, Willow, was upstairs on her computer.

There were also a few tastes of the political world Palin inhabits, such as one scene where she and husband, Todd, sat out on "our cement slab where I get to take in the beauty of our lake."

She asks Alaska's former first husband if "he's over there," referring to writer Joe McGinniss, who rented a neighboring home as he researched a book on Palin. Todd Palin calls the unfinished book "a hit piece on my wife."

Palin uses the incident as a teachable moment about national issues.

"Todd and his buddies got out there and built a 14-foot fence, and was very thankful for that. By the way, I thought that was a good example. What we just did others could look at and say, 'Oh, this is what we need to do to secure our nation's border.'"

In an unintentional bit of comedy, Palin calls McGinniss living next door "an intrusion, an invasion of our privacy and I don't like it."

Palin made that comment to the camera crew she'd invited into her home to record the family's private moments.

The premiere of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" repeats tonight at 8 and 11 p.m., and various times throughout the week, on TLC.

An all-comedy Thursday: Entertainment Weekly's Hollywood Insider blog is reporting that there's talk that NBC is thinking about an all-sitcom Thursday night lineup that will return "Parks and Recreation" to the lineup.

The latest installment of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" is wrapping up, and did poorly in the ratings, and while there's a possibility NBC could go old-school and plug a "Law & Order" into the 9 p.m. hour, it's more interesting to think of "30 Rock" at 9, followed by "Outsourced."

On radio: Chicago's WGN-AM (720), which has a share of Milwaukee's listening audience, has dumped program director Kevin Metheny, who screwed up one of the country's legendary radio stations over the past couple years by silencing a series of veteran and adding dubious ones, including ex-con Jim Laski. Laski is the first of Metheny's hires to be shown the door.

  • WUWM-FM (89.7) general manager Dave Edwards has been elected chair of the National Public Radio board of directors. He was first elected to the board four years ago, and the new position won't change his status at the helm of the Milwaukee Public Radio outlet.
  • So far, no Milwaukee stations have taken the all-Christmas plunge, while Chicago’s WLIT-FM adopted the holiday format on Friday. That change was announced in advance, while Milwaukee's is still a closely-kept secret. Two Milwaukee stations made the Yule flip last year on Nov. 13. Nationally, nearly two dozen stations have gone all-Christmas.
  • Satellite radio subscribers can hear Christmas music starting today on "Holiday Traditions" on Sirius/XM Channel 4 (featuring Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and the like), and "Holly," Sirius Channel 3/XM Channel 23 (contemporary artists like John Mayer and Mariah Carey.)

Gwyneth on "Glee": Actress Gywneth Paltrow is on TV for the second week in a row (appearing on last week's "Country Music Awards) as a substitute teacher on Fox's "Glee" at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 6.

It's also her second week singing on TV, as this clip shows:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.