"If you knew nothing about the political world, they're like any other relatable family," Burnett says. "They're genuine, fun and, if there's one thing people can take from the show, normal. They didn't take themselves too seriously, which is a nice quality and makes for an authentic show."
Palin says she's pleased with the series.
"Critics are going to say what they're going to say," she says. "I think the show is amazing and the scenery spectacular. It shows a real family with the same challenges and joys as any other. There's no made-up drama. What I didn't want to do is sit around talking about feelings and that kind of stuff. That's not our real life."
'Who knows what she'll do?'
Palin's campaign efforts on behalf of Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller may not have panned out in Alaska's U.S. Senate race, but her backing of scores of Tea Party candidates helped them win five Senate, 15 House and six gubernatorial races, Politico says.
"Lots of candidates (who) pundits said had no chance of winning — all the more reason for their messages to be heard," Palin says.
Potentially headed for political obscurity after the 2008 election and her abrupt resignation as Alaska governor in July 2009, Palin has become a force within the Republican Party.
A pre-election cover story in New York magazine suggested Palin could win the 2012 presidential race as a third-party candidate. The Daily Beast, a left-leaning website, weighed in with an opinion piece headlined "How to Derail Palin." Politico reports that mainstream Republicans are mounting a "Stop Sarah" campaign, fearful that her appeal, while strong among the party's most conservative members, isn't broad enough to win nationwide.
Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, would prefer Palin to remain a private citizen. "I don't see why she needs to do this," says Chuck, 72, a retired Wasilla schoolteacher.
"She has so much to offer," Sally says. "But I say don't do it. It's too painful."
"Who knows what she'll do?" says Todd, a soft-spoken snow machine racer, commercial fisherman and outdoorsman who was sought for ABC's Dancing With the Stars show before daughter Bristol agreed to sign up for this season. "He's my Captain America," Sarah says.
Palin, who says she'll run if "there's nobody else to do it," remains coy about 2012 and beyond while promoting Alaska through a few media outlets — including People magazine and Entertainment Tonight, whose fawning co-host, Mary Hart, presents an eye-rolling Palin with a "Palin for President 2012" T-shirt at the end of a lengthy autumn afternoon schmooze.
"If it came down to raising money and fighting the political machine, it sure won't be me," Palin says of seeking the GOP nomination.
What about running as a third-party candidate?
Palin pauses. "If people are tired of what they get out of big money and big machines running campaigns and candidates who have to compromise, then the American electorate would look to someone like me."
Running for office, however, would mean leaving money on the table.
Palin pulled in about $5 million from her 2009 best seller, Going Rogue: An American Life. She could make as much or more from the release Nov. 23 of America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag. The new book, parts of which she says were composed in the family RV and on her back patio, is "a compilation on historic and present-day writings and some pop culture, things that have influenced me to be an American," she says.