Alaska Daily TV series pulled from ABC's fall line-up: Podcast with Juneau's Vera Starbard, writer for the series
Fans of the TV drama Alaska Daily will never know if Eileen Fitzgerald, a hard-nosed, hotshot reporter, will fall in love with a Bush pilot and put down roots in Alaska – or what’s behind her panic attacks. ABC has cancelled the series after only one season.
Hilary Swank played Fitzgerald, who had come to Alaska to rescue her reputation, after she left a New York City newspaper in disgrace. A former editor recruited her to help investigate a series of cold cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Eileen was neither impressed with the Alaska Daily, which operated out of a strip mall in Anchorage – nor the reporter she was paired up with -- Roz Friendly, an Alaska Native and one of the newspaper’s rising stars, played by Grace Dove.
During the first few episodes the Eileen and Roz had frequent clashes, which set the stage for the story arc of the two women learning to work together. At the end of the series, the two solve the murder of a young Alaska Native woman.
In the last episode, Eileen turns down a job in New York and decides to stay in Alaska, at least for the time being.
Vera Starbard, an Alaska Native and one of the writers for the series, says she had hoped to expand Roz’s role, to reveal more about her culture and family background.
“Honestly, she’s the reason I signed onto the show,” Starbard said. “OK. Here’s a real Alaska Native character. This isn’t some silent nobody, who is going to get two lines, but fight for her own space and fight for her right to be there.”
Starbard says Roz and Eileen were pivotal characters, who helped to raise awareness about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
“Literally, the millions of people who saw this show, now have to know this is an issue. And many of them are a little bit more educated about exactly why that’s an issue,” Starbard said.
Some of the storylines for Alaska Daily were inspired by the work of Kyle Hopkins, an Anchorage Daily News reporter, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his series, “Lawless: Sexual Violence in Alaska”
Starbard says the true crime element was an important undercurrent in the show, though she and one of her co-writers, Andrew MacLean, a filmmaker from Utgiaqvik worked to keep Alaska Daily from becoming too sensational.
Starbard says, they also tried hard to make the show as authentically Alaskan as possible. She says one of their big successes was getting Native languages incorporated into the script. Also, the Alaska Native characters wore clothing, jewelry and regalia made by Alaska Natives.
Starbard says she’s disappointed but not surprised the ABC network cancelled the program. It was an expensive show to produce and did not draw the ratings the network had hoped for.
Starbard says she wrote the eleventh and final episode and left the show feeling that there was so much more to share about the richness and beauty of Alaska’s Indigenous cultures.