Unplugged Nation review

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As a couple, PB and I have lived 100% off-grid since Dec 22, 2007, we have lived pretty rough, doing everything ourselves on a very small budget. In the last few years, going off-grid has become a popular for entertainment purposes, TV shows. I have turned down numerous offers from more producers than I can count wanting to put us on an off-grid reality show, the ones I have seen tend to promote drama and do not reflect the reality of a normal family living off-grid.

We don’t have TV, I refuse to pay to watch TV, I can watch just about anything I wish through the internet, but on occasion I catch some TV when I’m at my neighbor’s house. The other evening I was down there and caught a show called Unplugged Nation, the premise is they take a family (usually from the city) who are interested in living off-grid, they show them 3 properties within or near their budget, the family chooses to spend 4 days in one of the homes, they have an off-grid expert Jay Gruen (who is also the host) giving them pointers about how to live on the particular property, there are tasks to complete, then the family chooses whether or not to make an offer on that property or one of the other 2 properties.

What I like:
I have seen 3 shows and so far it’s OK, I would give it a 7 out of 10, mostly for the entertainment value, I do appreciate the fact that they aren’t just following the families around hoping to catch (or even create) some drama. Jay is a very laid back guy, he doesn’t get excited, he doesn’t yell or cuss, at least not on camera, I suspect he shakes his head an awful lot though. I would like to see more interaction with him and the family, and see the family doing more things, some real things.

What I dislike:
I don’t think it’s very realistic, so far I’ve seen very citified folk who have no clue about living rough, I think they have a fantasy idea of what it’s like. It’s not possible to show very much in a one hour show (40 something minutes of real air time with the commercials), so they have to be very brief in everything, you don’t get to know the families, you don’t get to see their real day to day life in their psudo-off-grid challenge. I see it as they are getting a free vacation, possibly even getting paid to do it, like going to a dude ranch or camping.

I also don’t relate to their budgets at all, we live so very differently, I can’t imagine having a budget of $400,000 or $500,000 or $600,000, it seems like chump change to them, of course where I came from, “back in the day” you could buy a mcmansion for $200,000 and that was considered excessive. I know those days are long gone, it’s still not part of my reality, nor would I want it to be.

There are a few inaccuracies I have noted, the beginning of each show talks about living off-grid, not having bills, that is the problem, depending on how you live, it’s possible to whittle your bills down to a bare few, but you WILL have bills, taxes, if you want internet, it’s not free, there are maintenance costs, are you going to have a vehicle? You will have the expenses related to driving-fuel-tags-inspections-insurance…

I have seen so many people saying they want to go off-grid to live free, now I know one source of this misinformation. I don’t care how good you are, you are not going to be able to supply ALL of your food needs from the land, you will be going to the store to shop for food, and clothing and all the other necessities of life.

The show that is airing right now, they talk about one of the properties having a well, so they will have FREE water, I have to tell you that having a well isn’t free, sure you don’t have to pay a monthly bill for water, but again there are maintenance costs, the first time you have to get someone to come out and pull your well pump because it stops working and it costs you some $1500+ to replace the pump not including the labor costs, then you will realize how it’s not so free.

Here are some clips of the show if you haven’t seen it yet, new shows air on FYI on Saturdays 9pm central time.

What do you think? Would you do this?

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