If you’ve ever dreamed of going somewhere you can live a simpler life, more in tune with nature, then Life Below Zero is the reality show for you. The Emmy award-winning documentary reality TV series has taken upon itself the task to intimate viewers on what it really means to live in a remote corner of the world where there is apparently, limited resources. Also, it answers the question; what does it take to live a subsistence lifestyle?
Since Life Below Zero 2013 premiere, the Alaskan reality series has continued to thrill and entertain its audiences around the world with incredible explorative narratives. It airs on the National Geographic Channel and is produced by BBC Worldwide. Without a doubt, the success of the show can be attributed to its dizzying array of cast members who make the show come alive in no small manner. Nevertheless, the series has not been without its share of controversies and always tends to leave numberless questions on the minds of its viewers. Some of the questions frequently asked is, Is Life Below Zero real or scripted?
Without much ado, let’s delve into it as we also lay emphasis on cast salaries as well as find out famous actors who died or left the show.
Life Below Zero – Synopsis
Life Below Zero is simply a game of survival of the fittest in the Alaskan wild, a place where one wrong decision could cost one his life. It takes the viewers on an epic journey into the Last Frontier and gives them an inside view of the lives of the hunters who live in those areas as well as their survival tactics in the unfavorable conditions. The docuseries also tries to explore the remote corners of Alaska, characterized by harsh conditions; wild animals ready to kill at any moment, 60 degrees below zero days and a constant battle for the most basic necessities.
Despite living on the edge of the blade, the locals, rather than submit to the challenges they face daily, defy all odds to survive. They have become tough and resilient as they try to stay one step ahead of the unfavorable conditions.
It premiered on Sunday night, 13th of May, 2013 with its first episode airing on National Geographic Channel in June 2013. From Sunday night, it switched to Tuesday night from the fourth season and currently shows at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. So far, it has spawned 11 seasons and more than 110 episodes.
The series has been nominated for as well as won several Primetime Emmy Awards. It was nominated twice (2015, 2017) for the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program but clinched the title in 2016. Also, Life Below Zero won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program in 2017.
Is The TV Show Fake?
While we would never want to miss out on the epic journey to the Last Frontier where the cast members who choose to live in the outdoors wow us with their survival tactics and sheer bravery in the face of extremities, we can’t help wondering if this whole show is as real as it claims to be or just another scripted story.
Without a doubt, the dangers of the great outdoors are very much real but the same cannot be confidently said about the series and stunts. Some of the series and stunts have been said to be scripted by the producers.
A foremost cast, Sue Aikens reportedly sued the production crew after she was allegedly forced to perform dangerous stunts for narratives made up by a producer, Aaron Mellman which resulted in injury. She claimed that she was forced to drive a snow machine across a frozen river despite her concern. Consequently, she was thrown from the machine and suffered a broken collarbone.
As if the injury was not enough, poor Sue also claimed that she was coerced into exposing her face despite a 72-degree-below-zero wind-chill because “the audience needed to see her better and witness her pain in the arctic” as per the producers’ idea. This further resulted in her suffering from frostbite. She was infuriated and greatly upset because the series is supposed to be real and not scripted.
Scripted or not, what’s different about this show is the fact that people are convinced about its reality factor, leading us to the near conclusion that it is authentic. At least, there is no argument that the Alaskan bush people and the dangers in the arctic are real.
There is no doubt the show is a raging success, at least in terms of earnings, viewership, and rating. Quite many speculations are done about the salaries of the Life Below Zero cast. The salaries vary considerably but keep appreciating with each episode aired. Their estimated combined total income from the TV show is said to $1 million.
Sue Aikens is estimated to be worth $500,000 with an annual salary of $200k. She earns mainly from TV shows but also from running her own camp, Kivik River Camp for more than 13 years. Agnes Hailstone, on the other hand, is worth about $100,000 with $25k annual salary while her husband, Chips have a net worth estimated to be $200,000 and earns $45k annually as his salary.
On Andy Bassich‘s part, he also earns handsomely from the Alaskan reality show. His annual salary is put at $100k while his net worth is estimated to be a whopping $250k. For Glenn Villeneuve, he was already living his dream life as a survival expert and did not need a reality show to live largely. In fact, the idea of having a film crew following him around while he goes about his business is one he didn’t fancy, even for all it’s worth.
He joined the show not just for the extra money it would bring but also that it would benefit his subsistence type of lifestyle. As such, Glenn’s net worth could not be properly ascertained in monetary value. Some sources have however estimated it at $500,000. In the same vein, Jessie Holmes’ net worth or salary, like Glenn’s, can’t be ascertained but when it comes to living his dreams, money doesn’t seem to mean that much to him.
The other cast member is Kate Roker-Bassich. While her salary is not available, her net worth has been estimated to be $100,000. She earns from the TV show as well as from the school she ran with her ex-husband, Andy Bassich.
Famous Actors Who Died or Left Life Below Zero
The Life Below Zero cast covers five sets of Alaskans living life on their own terms in the Alaskan wild. They include outdoor survivalists Erik and Martha Salitan, river camp owner Sue Aikens who is also the face of the show, survival specialist Glenn Villeneuve, nomadic hunters Chip and Agnes Hailstone, and dog mushers Andy and Jessie.
Sue, born on July 1, 1963, became famous on the show but has been featured on other shows like Sarah Palin’s Alaska and Flying Wild Alaska. She was one of the earliest casts to be signed to the show. She lives alone in an isolated camp by the Kavik River, which is almost 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle.
Glenn Villeneuve is an Alaskan survivalist living a subsistence lifestyle like no one else in the History of Reality TV. Though he didn’t attend any school, he learned valuable lessons by reading and traveling. He moved from Vermont in 2000 to further pursue his ambition of hunting in the arctic Alaskan wild and lives in Fairbanks with his wife and four children who are not part of the show.
When he was approached by the producers of Life Below Zero to join the show, Glenn who had never seen a reality show before in his life was not keen to be a part of one. However, considering the offer, he decided to give it a shot and has been doing it since then.
Montana born Chip and his native Inupiaq wife, Agnes Hailstone live with their seven children on the Kobuk River in Noorvik which is located 19 miles North of the Arctic Circle. The family is a delight to watch especially Agnes; there seems to be only little she can’t do.
Living on the Yukon River near Eagle, Alaska is Andy Bassich with his 37 sleddogs. Born in 1959, the John F Kennedy high school alumnus who is also a carpenter and cabinet maker gave us the first taste of dog mushing before Jessie came along. He also hunts as well as runs a school called Alaska-Yukon Adventures. He moved from Washington D.C. to Alaska with his wife Kate Rorke; the duo divorced in 2016.
Others are Jessie Holmes who lives in Nenana, Alaska, the young couple, Erik and Martha Salitan who resides 67 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Wiseman, Alaska, series narrator James Franzo, and newcomer Ricko DeWilde. Holmes lives with his 40 sleddogs, is also a fisherman, hunter and dogsled racer while the couple is well-versed in wilderness living. Holmes for the first time entered for and won the Yukon Quest 300 (a dog mushing competition) in 2016.
Life in the wild might be simple but is certainly not easy. While none of the cast members has been lost to death so far, many of them like Glenn and Aikens who suffered a bear attack, have been embroiled in a number of dangerous situations. On Glenn’s part, he was surrounded by a pack of wolves at one time but managed to escape and return safely to his cabin.
Additionally, some have left the show. Kate, Andy’s ex-wife left the show after she left her husband. At a time, fans were relieved when Andy stopped appearing on the series, given his tantrums, pessimism, and downright cruelty, topped by his abuse of his wife of more than 10 years. However, they were in for a shock when he returned a few episodes later. Angry fans took to the show’s Facebook page to express their disgust and threatened to boycott the show completely unless he was removed, the dog musher has remained on the show nonetheless.