Edge of Alaska is one of a number of Discovery Channel shows that are set in the titular state, thrusting the small town of McCarthy, Alaska into the spotlight by showing the day-to-day activities of its forty residents.
Some residents attempt to transform the area into a tourist town, building hotels and other attractions in order to gain business, while other residents live quiet, peaceful lives and work to keep their small town from gaining any extra attention.
The show finished its final season in November 2017, capping off a four year run with beloved characters. Two show stars, Jeremy Keller and his wife Alison, live as farmsteaders, preferring nature and the outdoors to the bustle of city life.
Another star, Neil Darish, is a businessman who moved to McCarthy years ago with hopes of bringing in visitors. Other town residents are frequently shown as well, such as a local mother, Jenny Rosenbaum, and bush pilot Jason Lobo.
While Edge of Alaska has proven to be full of incredible true stories and presents a fairly accurate portrayal of the lives of McCarthy’s residents, there are still quite a few intriguing secrets from behind the scenes. Some of these facts merely didn’t make it in the show, while others were likely obscured in order to boost ratings.
Here are the 15 Secrets Behind Edge Of Alaska That You Didn’t Know About.
15. Neil Darish admitted that the show is scripted
Unfortunately, this secret won’t come as much of a surprise to those familiar with the world of reality television. Shows such as Edge of Alaska are constantly scripted, rehearsed, and occasionally even utilize multiple takes in order to ensure the juiciest plot and the best ratings.
In an interview published during the show’s first season, Neil Darish readily admitted that Edge of Alaska is often scripted, utilizing many of the same pitfalls as its related shows.
Darish still struggles with his negative portrayal in the show, but realizes that even on a “reality” show, he is giving a performance — audiences should expect dramatization, or otherwise the show would run the risk of losing viewers. “I’m just kind of fodder for the storytellers,” said Darish. “That’s the approach I took.”
14. Discovery Channel lied about Jenny Rosenbaum’s past
Discovery Channel writes short bios on each of the stars of Edge of Alaska, introducing viewers to the history of each individual and what motivates them. When it came to Jenny Rosenbaum’s bio, it appears that certain details were overlooked or altered in order to change Jenny’s appearance on the show.
Discovery’s bio paints Jenny as a rugged individual on her own, and while she is certainly a tough character on the show, she’s not quite the loner that they make her out to be.
In reality, Jenny’s Facebook page shows that she was once married, is in a relationship with a man named Caleb, and has a young son named Jasper. Discovery also mentions that Jenny moved to McCarthy “straight out of high school,” when in reality, Jenny attended the University of Texas at Austin for several years before moving to Alaska.
13. There is no law enforcement in McCarthy… or anywhere close
McCarthy’s small-town vibe and isolated location pose serious dangers to its residents, whether involving their health or their wellbeing. The town of McCarthy has absolutely no law enforcement or hospital, and the nearest location with these facilities is over 100 miles away.
While the town is small and such law enforcement would not consistently be needed, McCarthy has not been free from crime and has oftentimes suffered as a result.
Stephens Harper is a local resident who believes that Discovery Channel’s advertisement of the town’s lawlessness in Edge of Alaska poses a real threat.
“Promoting the idea that McCarthy is a place of Wild West lawlessness is fun and entertaining until someone gets shot,” says Harper, who emailed local business owners upon the show’s release to keep them informed of the town’s situation.
12. Town resident Jason Lobo caught fire and suffered severe burns
Jason Lobo is another star on Edge of Alaska. He is known for his job as a bush pilot. He flies small planes in and out of McCarthy, and moved there several years ago in order to seek a place of isolation that still offered him a good sense of community.
In October of 2017, Jason was sleeping in his cabin and suddenly woke up to the smell of smoke. When he left his bedroom, he saw his entire cabin on fire and ran through the flames to escape from the burning home.
A formal statement regarding his injuries was never given, but his friends from the show announced on Facebook that he suffered severe burns. The other residents set up a GoFundMe page to help rebuild Jason’s cabin. He has now recovered from his injuries.
11. Tim Mischel left the show and town after suffering from a heart attack
In October of 2015, McCarthy resident and Edge of Alaska star Tim Mischel suffered a heart attack, and when he refused to undergo surgery, it appeared that he would not live much longer.
The town was excited to learn that Mischel did in fact survive the heart attack, and though the road to recovery would be long and difficult, he would come back to McCarthy as soon as he could.
Mischel lived in the town for over 40 years, with some residents calling him the “Old Man of the Mountain.” Townspeople often consult Tim on important decisions, since his age and experience make him quite knowledgeable about life in McCarthy.
Tim was thrilled to finally return to his town after a year of recovery, and seemed as happy and healthy as ever. “I’m as fine as frog hair,” says Mischel, when asked of his return to the show.
10. The Pilgrim family began camping in the middle of the town after their land was taken
In 2016, one of McCarthy’s long standing families, the Pilgrim family, left their original home when the National Park Service began battling them over bulldozer access inside the National Park (on which the Pilgrims lived).
As the debate continued, the Pilgrims eventually began camping in the middle of the town of McCarthy, which residents did not take kindly to. In the summer of 2016, two separate assault cases were charged against residents displeased with the family’s camping. There was also a reported incident of a mooning.
The town landowners threatened to bulldoze down the Pilgrim’s tents and the town residents created a petition in an attempt to make the family leave. The petition, which was addressed the Pilgrims, stated that their “continued homesteading of that public area with farm animals, vehicles and [their] large family is clearly not in the best interest of the community.”
9. Jeremy Keller indirectly contributes to the tourism he tries to prevent
Jeremy Keller is the “leader” of the McCarthy residents who seek to keep the town isolated from tourists and visitors. Keller consistently speaks out against the consumerism and business mentality that his opponent Neil Darish advocates. Darish, however, believes that Keller contributes the town’s continuing tourist boom, whether he realizes it or not.
In a recent interview regarding the final season of Edge of Alaska, Darish had this to say about the situation: “While Jeremy is off the grid and doesn’t think he’s relating to tourism, he is [doing just that] because when he sells stuff to me or when he’s building stuff for people in town, the revenue starts from outside the town, and it’s brought to us by people that are visiting.”
8. Several McCarthy citizens had their lives ended in a shooting
Discovery Channel knew about McCarthy’s dark past, as it was one of many reasons why it was an ideal spot for a reality television show such as Edge of Alaska.
In 1983, the town contained only twenty-two residents (that number currently sits at forty). When town resident and pilot Gary Green went to the airport in 1983, he was shocked to witness another resident, Lou Hastings, firing his weapon around the airport, taking the lives of six of McCarthy’s residents.
“I’m the only one in town that day that didn’t get shot,” says Green, who still vividly remembers the tragic events. “It wasn’t an easy thing to come back to. I cleaned up all the blood.”
7. Many locals disapprove of the show
The small town of McCarthy has always been a quiet, little-known refuge offered as a getaway for those wanting isolation or even just a break from society.
Given this mentality, it is easy to see why many of the town’s residents disapprove of the show being filmed in their formerly isolated location.
Many residents point to one man as the cause for the Edge of Alaska being created — Neil Darish. It is well known among citizens of the town that Darish invited Discovery Channel to visit the location and pitched them his idea for the show being filmed there.
Darish feels that he has a clear conscience, saying in an early interview, “The empirical evidence is clear: there’s no such thing as a reality TV show destroying a town.”
6. Neil Darish hates his portrayal on the show
Throughout the entire series, if one person came out looking like the “bad guy,” it was Neil Darish. He has a business mind and is always thinking of how to grow the town and widen its appeal, which hasn’t sat well with others.
The small town and its residents “aren’t too thrilled” with Darish’s choices, nor the fact that he’s brought in hundreds of visitors and tourists in the last few years.
Edge of Alaska takes advantage of this dislike and use it to paint Darish in a negative light compared to the town, much to his chagrin. Despite what others think of him, he doesn’t want to destroy the town or be seen as a villain.
5. Alaska offers a huge tax credit program to reality shows
A controversial aspect of the show has been the large tax credit that Alaska offers television shows filming in the state. While some lawmakers claim that the credit encourages business and publicity for the state, many Alaskans are not in favor of the plan, or the amount of government money that is devoted to bringing in television shows like Edge of Alaska.
Alaska’s Senator Johnny Ellis is one of the members of the legislature who is firmly against the money given to shows. He reasons that since show crews usually travel to Alaska from somewhere else, there is less money spent on Alaskan equipment or on hiring Alaskan employees.
As of now, Ellis has been unsuccessful in his pleas to cut or reduce state spending on these projects. In 2014, Alaska voted to extend the program by ten years and allowed the state to spend up to $200 million on the movie and television subsidy program.
4. The show never reveals that Neil Darish is gay
Neil Darish does a lot in the town of McCarthy, pushing for modernization and running hotels, bars, and even supplying electricity. His prominent and controversial push for modernization became a focal point in Edge of Alaska, but the show never delves very deeply into his personal life.
Any look into Darish’s past reveals that he is openly gay, coming out nearly 30 years ago.
In a largely isolated place such as Alaska, it would be easy to imagine some townspeople taking issue with Darish’s lifestyle choice. Although Darish has often been the subject of much debate and is disliked by many in McCarthy, he is happy to say that being gay has never been a problem in the town.
In his opinion, McCarthy “doesn’t attract people who are intolerant, it attracts people who are self reliant enough that they can be tolerant.”
3. Jeremy Keller’s wife chronicles their offscreen adventures in a personal blog
Jeremy Keller gets most of the attention on Edge of Alaska opposite of Neil Darish, fighting him on issues relating to the town’s modernization and attempted tourist appeal. However, he has been married for fifteen years now to his wife Alison Keller, and they have two children, Liam (seven) and Bjorn (twelve).
Alison has taken to blogging as a way of keeping their family, friends, and fans informed about their day-to-day activities and struggles in McCarthy.
Called The Homestead Chronicles, Alison created the blog for readers to see what it was like for her and her husband, “living and learning at the edge of one of Earth’s last terrestrial frontiers.”
2. McCarthy is surrounded by abandoned mines, giant glaciers, and only two entries
Discovery Channel chose McCarthy for Edge of Alaska in order to feature its isolation, but many people may not realize just how secluded the town actually is.
McCarthy was a former mining town and now contains several abandoned mines, not to mention the natural barriers in the village, such as large glaciers, steep slopes, and a steady onslaught of snowfall. The town is an eight hour drive from Anchorage, Alaska, the closest city.
In addition, the town’s “entrances” can hardly be called that. A small, worn dirt road allows entry to the town, as does a narrow foot bridge. Past this, residents and visitors alike have to be creative in their means of traveling. This can range from flying to snowboarding to dog sledding, depending on the traveler and their sense of adventure.
1. Neil Darish is selling the entire town of McCarthy for $3.7 million.
The main conflict throughout the fourth seasons of Edge of Alaska revolved around the attempted modernization of the town in order to attract the attention of tourists, and the divide that this caused between town residents.
Neil Darish, who has long pushed for the town to become a tourist attraction, finally got his way in 2017, after thirty years of effort on his part.
Darish built two large hotels in the town, encouraging tourists to come stay there and visit the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Once he finally had a booming business in place, he made the decision to sell the town of McCarthy for $3.7 million.
However, Darish doesn’t plan to abandon the town, nor does he want McCarthy to lose its dedication to nature or its tranquil environment. “People that are visiting here can have authentic experiences, and I don’t want to lose the authentic,” he said.
Can you think of any other dark secrets about Edge of Alaska? Sound off in the comments!
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