Sarah Palin, media master

Palin, on the other hand, understands how to use reality TV the way the Kennedys understood how to use photography. In “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’’ produced by Mark Burnett, she’s a bona fide folk hero, in makeup, with flawless hair. She’s fishin’, she’s shootin’, she’s tryin’ to keep boys out of her daughter Willow’s bedroom. She’s draggin’ her family with her; in the opening credits, their first names flash across the screen in cutesy print as they handle firearms and wrestle fish. (Not all relatives are equal; little Trig appears only briefly tonight, waving from the window as his parents go off mountain climbing. And husband Todd is omnipresent but near-silent. Just like a political wife.)…

Lately, Republicans have been far more successful than Democrats at appearing as regular people — folks you can relate to, with flaws you can relate to. Obama was elected as an icon on a pedestal. Now, people are incensed because he doesn’t seem human enough.

The Sarah Palin on TLC is something in between: a woman-of-the-people and a heroic cult figure at once. That doesn’t always make for riveting TV, and it’s not a surefire path to higher office. But Palin will keep, well, tryin’. And when she grins at the camera and says, “you can see Russia from here . . . almost,’’ the joke is on her critics.