The Discovery Channel is supposed to be about discovery, isn’t it? It seems these days all we’re really discovering are new scandals about the cast and crew of the channel’s shows.
Discovery Communications, which owns Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet, is no stranger to controversy, whether it’s misleading their audience or something much, much worse. The network has reality shows literally riddled with convicted criminals – some of whom are pedophiles and felons. Though this news usually leads to a show’s cancellation, it’s impossible not to wonder why the Discovery Channel seems like such a magnet for this kind of behavior.
Take a look at the biggest scandals in Discovery Channel history. You won’t believe these people were actually able to profit off of their bad behavior.
Man Vs. Wild’s Bear Grylls Was Fired from Discovery Channel
There’s not a whole lot Bear Grylls won’t do (he even drank his own urine to survive), but he ended up getting fired from Discovery because he wouldn’t put in the work beyond his Man Vs. Wild. Apparently, Grylls was totally unwilling to participate in two of the network’s upcoming projects.
Rather than letting him stick to the show that made him famous, they decided to fire for being unruly. Man Vs. Wild was on the air for six seasons and even featured an episode with Barack Obama before contract disputes caused the whole thing to implode.
The Alaskan Bush People Aren’t Even Alaskan
Alaskan Bush People has been the subject of a lot of Discovery Channel controversy because people aren’t sure how much of the show is actually a lie. It turns out that the Alaskan Bush People aren’t even really Alaskan and their former home was just 10 miles away from the center of town.
All six of the family members – Billy, Bear, Bam Bam, Noah, Matthew, and Gabriel – were issued citations about making false statements about their residency on hunting and fishing licenses. Apparently, the very people who claim to have been born and raised in the wild were living in Colorado and Texas. They apparently bought their licenses shortly after moving to Alaska in 2012.
Alaskan Bush People Pleaded Guilty to Fraud
The crew from Alaskan Bush People just can’t stop lying about living in Alaska. In 2015, the Brown family confessed that they lied about living in Alaska to receive government checks. Both Billy Brown and Joshua “Bam Bam” Brown pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree unsworn falsification.
The Browns allegedly claimed to live in southeastern Alaska, which has the Alaskan Permanent Fund Division and gives full-time residents thousands of dollars to remain in the state. Billy Brown admitted that he collected $7,956 from the state of Alaska and Bam Bam collected $1,174. They were both sentenced to 30 days in jail.
American Guns Drums up Major Controversy After Cancellation
Discovery cashed in on America’s firearms obsession with their popular show American Guns. The show revolved around the Wyatt family, who owned a custom gun shop called Gunsmoke Guns in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. The show was met with a ton of controversy, but not for the reasons you would think.
American Guns aired its last episode in 2012, even though both seasons were met with really favorable ratings. It was believed that gun-related tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were the reason Discovery pulled the plug; however, the network insisted that it wasn’t being canceled. They simply chose to not renew it for another season and had no plans to air reruns.
Gunsmoke Guns Was Burglarized after American Guns’ Cancellation
Right after American Guns was canceled, the Wheat Ridge shop Gunsmoke Guns was burglarized through a hole in the ceiling (if you’re a high-profile business, you should reinforce your roof or you’re just asking for a situation in every middle-of-the-night cartoon theft).
On February 27, 2013, a thief broke into the shop by cutting a hole in the roof. Though cops weren’t sure if they acted alone or with accomplices, they made away with 12 handguns and three rifles. Most news sources reported that the robbery was unfortunate, but no one could possibly be prepared for what was going to happen to the Wyatt family in the coming weeks.
Richard Wyatt Never Actually Had a Gun License
As it turns out, Richard Wyatt wasn’t authorized to sell guns. In the middle of filming American Guns in 2012, Wyatt lost his Federal Firearms License for violations of federal laws and regulations (though it was never specified which laws and regulations he violated). He continued selling guns at Gunsmoke through a straw Federal Firearms license that belonged to someone else.
He was accused of changing the address of a store called Triggers to the address of Gunsmoke, even though he didn’t actually own Triggers. When someone bought a gun at Gunsmoke, they were sent to Triggers to fill out paperwork. To him, this was a seeming loophole, but he was indicted in 2016 for conspiring with others to sell guns without a license.
Richard Wyatt Failed To Report $1.1 Million Of Personal Income
About nine days after Gunsmoke Guns was robbed in the middle of the night, IRS agents raided the store as part of an ongoing financial investigation for tax evasion. This began in 2010 when an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives got wind of the fact that Wyatt may be unlawfully possessing six fully automatic weapons. When agents looked more closely into the shop’s records they found some things that didn’t add up.
Wyatt was charged with failing to report $1.1 million in personal income between 2009 and 2012. He was also charged with filing a false tax return. Wyatt was found guilty on 10 felony counts including one count of conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and nine tax fraud and evasion charges.
Up next: the time American Guns contributed to the sale of a stolen pistol.
American Guns Also Dealt with Pawn-Happy Criminals
Despite all the shady stuff that happened with American Guns’ patriarch Richard Wyatt, the show also contributed to the sale of a stolen firearm. In the last episode of the first season, a man named Wylie Newton tried to sell an antique Colt Pistol worth $20,000.
This gun had been stolen from private New Mexico Museum, and Newton almost got away with it, if only he didn’t try to sell stolen goods on TV. Someone who was familiar with the robbery was watching the show and ended up recognizing the missing gun. Authorities were alerted, and Newton was charged.
Sons of Guns’ Kim Ford and Stephanie Hayden Were Also Arrested
The Hayden family appears to be full of hardened criminals and Discovery dodged a bullet by canceling Sons of Guns. After her father was arrested for his disgusting crimes, Stephanie Hayden Ford and her husband Kris Ford were arrested on one count of cruelty to juveniles.
Allegedly, the couple hit their nine-year-old son so hard with a belt on his lower backside that he retained bruises. Though Kris was the one who performed the act, Stephanie was taken into custody because their son said she was in the room at the time of the beating.
Cody Lundin Insisted That His Dual Survival Co-Host Tried to Kill Him
Discovery’s survival reality show Duel Survival was met with controversy when host Cody Lundin filed a lawsuit against the network. The suit claimed that co-host Joe Teti threatened to kill him while filming the show. According to Lundin, producers made it look like he was losing his mind during filming, but what was really happening was that Teti was waving an ice ax around threatening to bury him on a mountain in Norway.
This was the second time Lundin was threatened by his co-host who threatened to impale him with a spear when they were filming in Hawaii. Lundin also alleged that his co-host showed him pictures of people he killed while he was in the CIA.
Naked and Afraid Crew Members Actually Give the Contestants Help
Discovery’s popular survival show Naked And Afraid was met with much controversy when contestants alleged that the show was pretty much fake. In the show, a man and a woman survivalist are put in the wilderness for 21 days and forced to figure out how to survive. If the crew helps out contestants, that defeats the purpose of the whole thing.
According to the Daily Mail, the show allegedly fed a female contestant bread, rice, and baby food when she got sick after eating a turtle. She also received two separate IV drips so she wouldn’t be dehydrated. Obviously, the contestant needed the help because her life was at risk; however, The Daily Mail alleged that it was completely dishonest to not say help was provided because of her life-threatening circumstance.
A Naked and Afraid Contestant Lashed out over Scripted Segments
In the Season 3 finale of Naked and Afraid, Honora Bowen competed alongside Matt Struzel in Brazil. Matt completed the challenge, but Honora tapped out after suffering from heat exhaustion. Honora took to her blog to completely shatter our view of the episode. She claimed she was coerced into starting an argument with Struzel during filming in order to make it more dramatic.
She also said that producers coached her to make statements about her background and her relationship with her father that weren’t true. She didn’t tap because of heat exhaustion. She developed a bladder issue and producers wouldn’t let her leave though she asked to tap out several times. She ended up faking medical issue to get off the show.
Visitors Were Not Impressed
In 2012, there was a spin-off of Pawn Stars called Counting Cars that premiered. The show revolves around the crew buying, selling and customizing unique cars at Count’s Kustoms auto shop. Danny Koker was the car expert from Pawn Stars and evidently, his vast knowledge of vehicles landed him his own show.
As you would expect, people who are seen visiting the shop on the show seem more than happy with their visit, but some visitors don’t share the same feelings. They either complain about the sketchy location of the shop or the overpriced merchandise. People just feel underwhelmed.
No Luck No Glory
American Pickers follows Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they search the country in hopes of finding discarded treasures that are valuable. Fritz and Wolfe are also helped by their store manager, Danielle, as they hunt for collections and pick through junk to find what’s best. Of course, what they find is real but a lot of how they find it is left off the screen.
The way it really works is that the producers get sent collections from collectors. The producers then sort through and decide items are the best. Only then do Fritz and Wolfe examine them on the show. Their findings are far from lucky.
Pawn Stars and American Pickers are on the same network so it would make sense that they follow a similar protocol. Rick Harrison seems to have a friend for everything but when it comes to experts, he doesn’t actually find them for the show. One might assume that Harrison of Pawn Stars finds the experts that examine the artifacts but it is really the producers.
It might be news to people that the experts are brought in ahead of time, it may be news that the producers are the ones that bring in the experts and not Harrison.
Mistake Or Two By The Crew
Yet again, another Pawn Stars spin-off, American Restorations follows the team as they bring the old back to life. The results of what you see on the show are a product of long hours of work and experience. While on the show they focus on making old items look as new as they can, fans have noticed some slipups.
One example is from the episode, “Secret Fan.” A viewer took note of the wheels on the go-kart they had restored. The wheels were put on crooked causing the kart to wobble. For the huge amount they charge, it is better for people to take their antiques somewhere else.
Pawn Stars Don’t Work There
Pawn Stars is a show about the lives of Corey, Chum Lee, The Old Man and Rick as they closely inspect and buy any number of artifacts and old goods. Yes, they worked at their shop on a regular basis prior to the camera people being around, but that is not so true today.
Them being at the shop just gets in the way of the customers and potential sales because of the camera crew that looms around. These days, the group only go to the shop for filming but that doesn’t happen often.
Is It Staged?
Now that we know that the findings of collections are staged for American Pickers, it is worthwhile to know what else is set up. The two main components of the show are finding collections and selling the focal points from it. When they sell, the negotiations are staged too but is that a surprise?
The seller and Mike and Frank seem to always bicker on screen but it is all an act. The target price is chosen between the producers and seller prior to the pickers meeting them.
Up next, learn something new about the Swamp People.
Viewers Were Outraged When Eaten Alive Turned out to Be Anticlimactic
Misleading advertising is a real thing, and it’s a serious offense. The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines for this very reason. When Discovery Channel aired their special Eaten Alive, in which Paul Rosolie tries to get eaten alive by a 20-foot anaconda, fans were outraged.
The network had been touting for months that this guy would actually get eaten, but after antagonizing the snake for a couple of hours, Rosolie had to be rescued by his team. Apparently, the snake swallowed his head, and he thought his arm was going to be broken. The backlash lost Discovery Channel some major credibility.
PETA Spoke out Against Discovery Channel for Eaten Alive
Among leagues of angry people on the Internet claiming to be misled by Discovery Channel’s advertising, PETA voiced major concern. Rosolie, who wore a special carbon fiber suit and an oxygen-supplying helmet, was given free rein to torment a snake in exchange for TV ratings. And what would have happened if he was swallowed alive? They’d probably have to kill the snake to get him out.
“Shame on this pseudo ‘wildlife expert’ for tormenting this animal and shame on the Discovery Channel for giving him the incentive to do so,” PETA said in a statement.
Up next, Mama June gets puts in the hot seat. And it isn’t pretty.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Was Taken off the Air after Mama June Dated a Child Molester
TLC, which is owned by Discovery, saw some major controversy with their show Honey Boo Boo. The show was abruptly canceled when Mama June began dating a convicted sex offender.
Mark McDaniel, Mama June’s then boy-toy, spent 10 years in jail for molesting June’s daughter, Anna “Chickadee” Cardwell. Cardwell accused McDaniel of repeatedly sexually abusing her in 2002 while her younger, three-year-old sister was in the bed with her. The show was canceled when McDaniel resurfaced in the girls’ lives, and Mama June issued an apology only after the couple broke up.
Ann “Chickadee” Cardwell Sued Mama June for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Money
Though Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was taken off the air, the family still found their way into headlines when Chickadee sued Mama June. The reality TV star sued her mother and the network for allegedly withholding $201,000 in profits from their series.
Cardwell claimed that her 2-year-old daughter Kaitlyn was also owed nearly $100,000. According to TMZ, the family was paid $22,500 per episode, which was meant to be split amongst the kids. Mama June claimed all the money was directly deposited and she never saw a dime. TLC didn’t comment.
If you’re a fan of Pawn Stars you probably shouldn’t read much further. We don’t want to ruin it for you!
The Legal Woes Of The Swamp People
This show is all about the everyday lives of a slew of alligator hunters living in Lousiana. Yes, that already seems a bit wild but you’d be shocked to learn many of these hunter’s lives are crazier off-screen than on. RJ, Jay Paul, Nick Payne, Chase Landry, and Randy Rivers Jr. have all had their legal battles. But the most serious offense came from Trapper Joe Lafont.
He has a domestic abuse history that spans back to 2012. His first offense came from assaulting his girlfriend in the hotel lobby. The same type of charges came in 2013 and 2015.
Replace And Go
TV shows, especially reality shows, are always at risk of facing changes. It is rare that a show goes its entire series with no changes anyway. After the sixth season of Swamp People, a massive change went down. This shift saw a dozen cast members replaced like they were nothing.
The History Channel also didn’t reveal their reasoning behind getting rid of the former cast. Many fans were left in the dark after the season seven premiere. The network also doesn’t like hearing from former cast members about the firing from the show.
Are They Really Off The Grid?
Viewers of Mountain Men get to enjoy the lives of a group of individuals who seek to find simpler times prior to the comforts we enjoy today. There are a select few of others who choose live their life this way but viewers feel a little shaded by the unauthentic lifestyle of the cast.
Jason Hawk has an online store while Tom and Nancy Oar have a cable subscription. These are some of the issues that make people think the cast is not as removed as they want us to believe.
Nothing Is Organic
We’ve learned about a few other staged events on some of these History Channel shows but why stop there. Another feature that isn’t as real as one would think are the encounters. It shouldn’t be that shocking that the producers set that part of the show up as well.
The majority of sellers are found and then it is arranged for both the experts and sellers to appear on camera. In doing so, Rick has ample amount of time to learn about the item that is on its way so it is easier to be in talks with whichever expert that comes in.
Fritz Doesn’t Care
On American Pickers, it is presented to viewers in a way that makes you believe Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are devoted to what they do. By what they do we mean, treasure hunters who have been looking for antiques for years before the show even started. We have been fooled by Fritz.
Wolfe has been collecting antiques for years since he was younger but Fritze can’t be put in that category. Fritze is more interested in the business side of things and collecting. He doesn’t get nearly as excited as his partner does when they get new finds.
Who you see above is Danny Koker of Counting Cars. Koker isn’t afraid to share his political views outside of the shop. When he was interviewed by The Morning Show, he went in on the topic of hybrid and low-emission cars. He said that they were practically futile.
Not only did he suggest that environmentalism is no big deal, he would then follow that up by openly supporting Donald Trump during the elections. His track record is now a bit questionable. The network doesn’t want Counting Cars to be a platform for Koker to discuss politics but it seems like he does not care if his views are publicized.
The Misrepresentation Of Hunting
When reality shows don’t paint the proper picture of what we think we’re watching then it can be highly frustrating. When watching a show about hunting alligators, one would hope that what they are watching is in fact true. Many viewers have called out the show for not showing the true way of alligator hunting.
People think that the alligators these hunters wrestle are already dead. They also think that because they capture large alligators all the time, they are common. We guess only true hunters would know what to look for when searching for authenticity in these types of shows.
Poor Buying Selections
One thing that many people who watch the show enjoy a lot is the price negotiation segments. Even though many don’t know that they are staged (unless you’ve read this article) they are amused by the interactions between the staff and customer. The majority of the time, the staff come out on top during the deals but there were times when the cast made some bonehead purchases.
The cast has been open about some of their bad purchases. For example, Corey buying stolen Rolex watches or when the Old Man bought cubic zirconias. Some of these faulty purchases cost them up to $10,000 dollars like the fake Willie Mays uniform.
Chumlee Has His Troubles
Many viewers think Chumlee is the best part of Pawn Stars. Sometimes he is not as outspoken about some of the historical items but his personable, sometimes dim-witted approach to the job is what makes him one of the favorites. He may have a laid-back style but he found himself in some deep trouble early 2016.
HIs house was raided by the police. Once inside, they found various drugs and illegal firearms as well. He ended up getting three years of probation so his appearance on the show would not be interrupted.
Little Faith In Street Outlaws
Justin “Big Chief” Shearer told people a huge secret or at least something you wouldn’t tell others beforehand. The secret was that no one had faith in the show being a success. Shearer said that it started with smaller media companies filming races and then it all grew from there.
Not even the producers thought that the show would surpass the first season. Because of that mindset, they chose to not hold back while filming season one. The network was impressed so they gave them 10 full seasons.
Up next, do you think you know everything about the Moonshiners?
Threatened Off Camera
Moonshiners revolves around the cast making moonshine illegally. Millions of viewers tune in for this docudrama style show. From time to time, some of the cast members on the show are stopped by police while the cameras are going. They are often always able to walk or drive away but it makes for good TV tension.
Sometimes, they aren’t all caught on camera. Tim Smith admitted that law enforcement tried to ask him about the show one time at his home. He said he kept his cool and invited them to come in and have some dinner.
Close To Lost
Appearing on Street Outlaws as a racer can boost your stock tremendously. You are almost guaranteed to gain fans. Sadly, you also put yourself at risk to lose your license if you appear on this show. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) threatened drivers in 2015 to take their racing license if they appear on the show.
Drivers backlashed at this decision but the NHRA stood by their statements. They said they wanted to stop licensed drivers from openly promoting illegal and hazardous activity. They also stated that they hoped drivers would do the right thing.
It Could Be A Sting
Somethings are too good to be true. A television show about illegal street racing of high-end cars is one of them. And Joe Woods thought the same thing. Since no one thought the show would succeed at first, what was the point of filming it anyways? According to Woods, he thought the network was a secret spy operation.
He said he didn’t trust the producers of the show one bit when they first started filming. He took it as far as to say they were an undercover sting. Would you have thought the same thing?
Virginia Called B.S. On The Moonshiners
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had already reported they were misled about the nature of the show but they didn’t stop there. Virginia also came out and threw dirt all over Discovery for airing a false show so they say. Viewers kept asking why the state was letting a crime take place, Virginia came out and said they weren’t actually showing illegal moonshine.
The cast members continued to preach the opposite. They say the state is just mad they haven’t been able to catch them in the act of producing the illegal moonshine.
Discovery Channel Got Flak for a Fake Shark Week Documentary
In 2013, The Discovery Channel got some major flak when they aired a fake documentary to launch Shark Week. The documentary titled “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives” was about a 70-foot prehistoric shark that somehow was found to be still alive.
Megalodons are thought to have existed between one and two million years ago, and though the documentary was obviously a ruse, people took to the Internet to complain about the hoax. A whopping 4.8 million users tuned into the show and the special was the highest-rated telecast in Shark Week’s 26-year history (so we’re guessing that Discovery doesn’t care one bit).
Should The Discovery Channel Find a Better Way to Vet Their Reality Stars?
With so many of The Discovery Channels reality star caught up in scandals, it makes you wonder how they vet the people they choose to work with. Sure, every reality star comes with their own (expected) drama, but employing a convicted rapist is another issue.
It only makes matters worse when you consider just how much these reality stars make. According to Business Insider, reality stars salaries are varied, but some of the most popular can earn up to $10 million a season.