Scandals And Secrets That The Discovery & History Channel Tried To Hide
There’s a good reason that 22 million people subscribe to the Discovery Channel. While it has always provided fascinating documentaries focused on science, history, and technology, in the 2010s, that changed. The channel began providing programs covering semi-scientific topics; the viewers loved it.
But everything is not always as it seems on the channel. What tales did they try to hide from their viewers?
They Don’t Always Win
It’s terrific fun watching customers try to wrangle more money out of the Pawn Stars guys. The back and forth is interesting, and while it seems sometimes the dialogue is staged, it’s definitely entertaining.
Most of the time, the cast ends up offering the client less than what they hoped to get for their item. But, what you don’t see is how often the cast gets ripped off by the customer. Whether the item is a forgery or ends up being stolen, sometimes the owners do lose money. As Rick Harrison told NPR, “It’s the cost of doing business.”
Chumlee and the Cops
If you watch Pawn Stars, you know cast member Austin “Chumlee” Russel. He is sometimes considered the heart of the show and is always calm and collected. However, he has managed to get himself into some serious legal trouble. You don’t hear about that on the show.
Police raided Chumlee’s house in 2016, where they found drugs and illegal firearms. The TV star pleaded guilty so that he could avoid jail time and also served probation. By serving probation, it meant he could continue filming the show.
Getting Stopped by Police
One of the wackier shows on Discovery is Moonshiners. This one highlights people making illegal moonshine and how they avoid getting caught by the police. As a viewer, you might wonder how these guys could avoid the law for so long – especially in those episodes where they were stopped by the police and let go!
The reason they never get arrested, Dolores Galvin, the show’s executive producer, told the New York Daily News, is that “You have to catch them in the process of making it.”
Street Racer Legal Trouble
Street Outlaws is one of those shows that makes you scratch your head and wonder how they get away with it. Street racing seems quite dangerous and risky, but it is obviously something viewers want to see, and Discovery provides it.
Any street racer that appears on the show enters the race knowing they could lose their driving license if caught. In 2015, The National Hot Rod Association told the show that any participant on the show would lose their license because the show portrays dangerous and illegal street racing.
Fans Were Misled About the 'Moonshiners'
If you are a fan of Moonshiners, you were a bit misled. The show apparently led viewers to believe that producing the state of Virginia was looking the other way when it came to manufacturing moonshine. In fact, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control reported to The Associated Press that the show seriously misled viewers.
Discovery spokeswoman Kathleen Shaw told the Associated Press that her company would not have participated if they knew that moonshine is totally illegal in the state. The channel then agreed to contribute to the parts of the program which “documents the history of moonshine and moonshine investigations in Virginia.”
Jesse James’ Start in 'Monster Garage'
Before Jesse James became a famous Hollywood personality, he starred in Monster Garage, a show about mechanics who take old vehicles and transform them into totally new driving machines.
At that time, he was married to actress Sandra Bullock. While on the show, he cheated on Bullock and started dating his castmate, TV star Kat Von D. James, who is also known as the founder of The West Coast Choppers, did end up apologizing to Bullock and was quoted in The Daily Mail, calling cheating a “part of life.”
Jesse James Broke the Law
Jesse James has developed a persona as the all-time bad boy. He claims to be a descendant of the infamous outlaw Jesse James and is the man’s great-great grandson. This has never been proven.
However, just like the Jesse James of the Old West, this one, related or not, has a history of law-breaking. People Magazine reported that authorities fined him and his West Coast Choppers $271,250 because their customized bikes violate California clean-air laws.
Jesse James’ Motorbikes
It was also reported in People that the bikes not only violated the California clean-air laws, but they weren’t even fitted with state-certified exhaust and fuel system emissions equipment. Missing this equipment meant they generated hydrocarbon emissions that were ten times the legal limit.
Those bikes James and his crew built were sold between 1988 and 2005. Those are the same years that Monster Garage was on television, which means that, during the airing of their show, they were building illegal bikes.
Accidents and Injuries Behind the Scenes on 'MythBusters'
The show Mythbusters is hosted by Hollywood special effects experts and uses scientific methods to test whether rumors, movie scenes, sayings, and even some internet videos, are actually true. It looks like a smooth production, but lots have gone wrong during its 19 seasons.
There have been serious electrical shocks, blown-out windows, and even a cannonball shot into someone’s home. In short, there were lots of accidents and injuries. Most of the time, the accidents occur to one of the show’s co-hosts.
Cannons Are Dangerous!
Perhaps the most famous attempt gone wrong on MythBusters occurred when the staff made an error in firing a cannon beyond the bomb’s range. The cannon shot went into a California neighborhood through someone’s front door.
The shot then continued, shooting through the wall of a bedroom, and then into a minivan parked down the street. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but we can imagine that the house was pretty badly damaged. Let’s hope the show compensated that family.
'Swamp People' and the Law
This wild show covers the lives of alligator hunters in Louisiana. We guess people love watching programs about others who take their lives into their hands every day. The stars’ daily lives are not only dangerous, but they have also had lots of trouble with the law.
For example, Trapper Joe was arrested in 2012 after arguing with his girlfriend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The same domestic violence charges were leveled against at least twice more, in 2013 and 2015, according to Fox 8.
Attacked by Bear?
In the episodes of Man vs. Wild, star Bear Grylls is left stranded somewhere, a film crew in tow. The crew follows him to document his attempt to survive and get back to civilization. In one episode, Grylls found himself confronted by a bear. This was one of the scarier scenes of the entire season.
But it wasn’t a bear at all, just a man in a bear suit, as reported in The Daily Mail. It seems, according to crew member Ron Hood, that it was a colleague in a bear costume. Photos from the TV set that were released later also proved this to be true. So, was it a fake-out for the viewers?
Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance Is Still Unsolved
Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot were on an around-the-world flight in 1937 when they disappeared. The mystery has never been solved. In 2017, the History Channel’s Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence claimed to have solved the mystery and showed a photo they said was evidence.
A Japanese historian told The Guardian that the photo came from a travel book and was taken in 1925, a good two years before the famous flight.
Not Really Alone
The History Channel’s show Alone abandons contestants in remote locations, and they are supposed to find a way to survive. However, that’s not really the case.
In Season 2, Larry Roberts, the second-place winner, debunked the premise of the show. As he said to Outdoor News, “They did check on us on a regular basis. We had a GPS tracker that we were required to carry. They would check in with us at least nightly, to make sure that we were OK.” So much for being alone.
Naked and Afraid…and Fed?
Similar to the show Alone, in Naked and Afraid, participants are left in a remote location and have to fend for themselves for 21 days, living off the land.
Contestant Kim Shelton reported that she was fed bread, rice, and baby food after she got food poisoning from consuming a turtle’s liver. She even received rehydration. Yes, she was ill, but the show never told viewers that the contestant had been fed.
Is 'Naked and Afraid' Scandalous?
As the title implies, the contestants are all dropped off in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing to live on, and they are all undressed. Being without clothes is considered to be just one part of the challenge.
The contestants do not spend time developing relationships but focus on finding food and shelter. They may be somewhere cold, surrounded by wild animals, or somewhere dry where it’s hard to find water. Falling in love is the least of their interests!
Is 'Naked and Afraid' Inappropriate for TV?
It’s not surprising that the show Naked and Afraid has gotten people riled up. After all, it’s about people being stark naked, which is a pretty weird premise. An organization called One Million Moms petitioned the network to cancel the show because they considered it highly inappropriate.
They even encouraged their members to boycott the show when it premiered in 2013. As they said, “Discovery should be ashamed to air nudity and then call it entertainment. In fact, having the cast be naked is the basis for 50 percent of the show.”
Are the 'Pawn Stars' In the Pawn Shop?
Chumlee, Corey, Rick, and The Old Man are now household names, thanks to the popularity of Pawn Stars. But if you actually visited the store, you wouldn’t find any of them. That seems a little disappointing, but these guys are busy.
They do show up in the store every once in a while to sign autographs and talk to fans, but usually, that’s because their publicist, or the network, has arranged an event. We guess that with fame comes busy schedules, so don’t bother traveling to the store to see them.
New Producer Cuts 12 Cast Members
When you really like a show, you get comfortable with the cast and look forward to seeing them every episode. But, in reality TV, cast changes seem common.
In season 7 of the show, Swamp People fans were shocked when 12 cast members were suddenly replaced. It seems that a new producer was hired and decided to change most of the cast. And, on top of that, the History Channel never explained the change to the fans.
They’re Already Dead!
Here’s another disappointing fact about Swamp People. This show is supposed to be about alligator hunting, but there are plenty of viewers who believe that the alligators are already dead when they’re caught.
The fans began to notice that, during the capture scenes, the alligators don’t seem to be struggling at all. Even more, fans feel that the alligators are not real, based on the idea that alligators are not always as huge as they are on the show.
Was the 'Shark Week' Documentary Real?
Shark Week has been on the air since 1988, but in 2013 the Discovery Channel messed up big time. They aired a fake documentary called Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, and the fans were terrified.
The documentary told of the return of a prehistoric 70-foot shark. There was a warning that the show was fiction, but many of the 5 million people who watched were terrified. Since it was the highest-rated episode to that point, the Discovery Channel probably didn’t get upset about that.
American Guns Gets Canceled, Fans Get Angry
Taking advantage of the obsession with firearms in the U.S., Discovery created a show called American Guns. The show was about the Wyatt family, who owned a store called Gunsmoke Guns in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
American Guns ran for two seasons and was canceled, although it received good ratings. The public assumed that school shootings like the one at Sandy Hook were the reason for the cancellation, but actually, the network never announced the cancellation. It just stopped showing it. Weird!
Grylls Doesn’t Survive His Show
Bear Grylls, the host of Man Vs. Wild, would do just about anything to survive. He even drank his urine once. But somehow he couldn’t survive his own show. He got fired from Discovery because he refused to take part in two of the channel’s planned projects.
Because Grylls wouldn’t take part in the two new ventures, the channel fired him from the successful show he’d been hosting for six seasons. In the end, it was contract disputes that did Grylls in, not living in the wild.
'American Guns' Gets Canceled, Then Burgled
The show American Guns was canceled in 2013, much to the dismay of many fans. For the cast, however, things got worse immediately after the cancellation. Then, someone broke into their store Gunsmoke through a hole in the ceiling.
The thieves may have acted alone or with accomplices, but their total take was 12 handguns and three rifles. The newspapers reported that the burglary was unfortunate, but that didn’t compare with the news that both fans and the family received afterward.
Gun Store Owner without a License
American Guns star Richard Wyatt, it turns out, was not actually authorized to sell guns. This was discovered in 2012 after Wyatt lost his gun license. Apparently, he had violated federal laws. To make things worse, even after he lost his license, he kept selling guns at the store.
That wasn’t the end of the story – he had tried to fake out the federal authorities with a sneaky change of address scam but got caught anyway. What he thought was a brilliant loophole got him into big trouble.
More Scandal from Richard Wyatt
Remember the robbery at the Gunsmoke Guns store? Well, in addition to that, the store got a visit from IRS agents as part of a financial investigation for tax evasion. It had begun in 2010 because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives heard that Wyatt might own illegal and fully automatic weapons. Further investigation turned up more illegal transactions.
Wyatt was charged with income tax evasion between 2009 and 2012 and was found guilty on felony charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. Apparently, he had been on the wrong side of the law for many years while the show was airing.
'American Guns' and Stolen Weapons
American Guns’ reputation worsened when it was discovered that the show contributed to the sale of a stolen weapon. Unfortunately, this happened in the very first season. In the last episode, a man named Wylie Newton came into the store to sell an antique Colt Pistol worth $20,000.
The weapon had been stolen from a museum in New Mexico, and the seller wasn’t too bright. He tried to sell the gun on the TV show; a viewer recognized it and told the police.
Did Cody Lundin Insist That His 'Dual Survival' Co-Host Try to Kill Him?
Cody Lundin of Discovery’s survival reality shows Dual Survival filed a lawsuit against the network claiming that his co-host, Joe Teti, threatened to kill him during filming. When Teli was waving an ice ax around, producers made it look like he was losing his mind, but according to Lundin, Teti was threatening him.
Lundin also reported that during filming in Hawaii, a co-host threatened to stab him with a spear and that another co-host claimed to have killed people while working in the CIA.
'Naked and Afraid' Fake Argument
The fans of Naked and Afraid were disappointed after the Season Three finale of the show. After the airing, Honora blogged that the producers wanted her to argue with another contestant to add drama to the show. Also, viewers were told she suffered from heat exhaustion and could not complete the challenge.
Contrary to what the producers said, she did not suffer from the heat but developed a bladder issue, and the producers would not let her leave the show. She faked the heat exhaustion to get off the show.
The Fake 'Alaskan Bush People'
The Discovery Channel’s show Alaskan Bush People has been met with fan controversy since it began. Fans doubted that the premise was even true. In fact, the people featured in the show are not even from Alaska and their home is definitely not in the bush, but close to the town.
The six family members were cited for making false statements about their residency when they applied for hunting and fishing licenses. They were not born and raised in the wild and only moved to Alaska in 2012.
More 'Alaskan Bush People' Fraud
These stars of Alaskan Bush People really have a hard time with the truth. In 2015, the Brown family admitted that they fabricated the statement about living in Alaska to receive government checks. Two of the stars pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree unsworn falsification.
It seems that the Browns claimed to live in southeastern Alaska. That part of the state offers full-time residents thousands of dollars to dissuade them from moving. The show’s stars collected the money, were caught, and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Twisting the Truth on 'American Pickers'
American Pickers stars Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe go around the country hoping to find treasures that others have discarded. They literally pick through junk, then hope that they can find something really valuable. What they find is indeed junk, but what about how they find it?
The producers receive items from collectors, then sort through them to decide which are appropriate for the show. So, the stars do not “travel the country” at all, but are simply handed the items. Thus, very little luck is involved in this production.
'Counting Cars' Flops
The show Pawn Stars spun off another show called Counting Cars which premiered in 2012. This one was about the stars buying unique cars and refurbishing them, then selling them. One of the Pawn Stars cast, Danny Koker, starred as the car expert.
On the show, most customers who come into the shop are thrilled by seeing the customized cars. But others have reported that the shop is located in a mildly dangerous part of the city and that the cars are way overpriced. The general reaction to the show was bland.