In recent years there have been more uncovered scandals about the shows on the Discovery Channel. Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC are all entities owned by Discovery Communications, a company that is well-versed in scandals.
These kinds of scandals can often cause the cancellation of a show, but we’re more curious why the Discovery Channel has scandals so often. Keep reading to learn about some of the most controversial secrets to come from Discovery Channel’s TV shows.
Bear Grylls Was Fired by the Network
We can’t come up with anything that Bear Grylls can’t do. He was unwilling to work on a Discovery Channel series that wasn’t “Man Vs. Wild,” though. Perhaps it was because he felt a bit entitled from already having made his impact on the network.
The network specifically asked him to work on two upcoming shows, but Grylls wouldn’t agree to it. Instead of letting him continue to work on the TV show that made him a household name, the network terminated his contract after his show’s sixth season.
Not Actually Alaskan Bush People
The juiciest scandal from “Alaskan Bush People” is probably that the family on the series isn’t actually Alaskan. And that’s not all; their old house isn’t as far off the grid as they’d like you to think – it’s only 10 miles outside of town!
The family faced legal trouble when they were caught providing false statements about their residency in their fishing and hunting license applications. The family had also lived in Colorado and Texas before settling in Alaska in 2012.
Fraudulent Alaskan Bush People
In 2015, the Brown family admitted that they lied about their address to get more government funds. Bam Bam and Billy both pled guilty to charges of second-degree falsification for claiming to be originally from southeast Alaska.
The full-time residents of that particular area are given a hefty amount of money from the Alaskan Permanent Fund Division as an incentive to stay in Alaska. Billy was given $7,956, and Bam Bam was granted $1,174; both spent a month in prison for fraud.
Gun-Related Shootings Led to “American Guns” Being Cancelled
The Discovery Channel wanted to make money off viewers’ obsession with guns by creating a show all about a firearm shop. The show was called “American Guns,” and it centered on Gunsmoke Guns, ran by the Wyatt Family of Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
The show had good ratings but came to an end in 2012. The show was canceled because of the increased gun-related events like Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. The Discovery Channel decided it was best to err on the side of caution.
First Cancellation, Then a Gunsmoke Guns Robbery
Shortly after the show’s cancellation, Gunsmoke Guns was robbed through a hole in the ceiling. Law enforcement couldn’t tell if it was one person or a small group, but whoever carried out the robbery left with three rifles and twelve handguns.
News reported that the robbery was simply an unfortunate event to occur. Still, if you continue reading, you’ll learn about another unlucky thing that happened to them several weeks later…although the second was more of a poor decision-making situation.
Richard Sold Guns Without a Gun License
After the show was canceled, it was discovered that Richard Wyatt didn’t have a permit to sell guns. In 2012, he lost his Federal Firearms License because he breached federal regulations and laws. But he continued to sell firearms through someone else’s license.
Wyatt was accused of listing another store’s address as Gunsmoke’s address so that when someone wanted to buy a Gunsmoke gun, they had to fill out the paperwork at the other store. Though a blatant loophole, Richard was indicted in 2016.
Richard Also Evaded Paying a Lot of Taxes
Days after the Gunsmoke Guns robbery, the IRS raided the shop for tax evasion. This was in response to an investigation that started in 2010 when a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agent uncovered concerning information about Wyatt.
Wyatt had six fully automatic guns without the correct permits. Additionally, he hadn’t reported $1.1 million in personal income from 2009 to 2012, assumingly pocketing the money. He was charged with tax evasion and was found guilty of all ten felonies.
“American Guns” Bought a Stolen Gun
If the previous scandals weren’t shocking enough, “American Guns” also aired the purchase of a stolen firearm. In the season one finale, a man named Wylie Newton attempted to sell a $20,000 antique Colt to the gun shop.
It turns out that it was a stolen firearm from the New Mexico Museum. Wylie almost got away with it, minus the fact that he was shown on a TV series trying to sell it, and when someone who was familiar with the robbery saw the episode, they called the police.
Kris Ford and Stephanie Hayden Were Also Arrested
The Gunsmoke Guns family appears to have many criminals in it. It’s too bad that they’re not all just looking for loopholes to continue selling guns. After her father’s arrest, Stephanie Hayden Ford and her husband Kris were charged with cruelty to kids.
They were accused of hitting their nine-year-old son with a belt, leaving him with many bruises. Kris was the one accused of physically beating the boy, but Stephanie was arrested for being present for the beating and not putting an end to it.
Cody Lundin Claims His Life Was Threatened By His Survival Co-host
“Dual Survival” became a scandal when co-host Cody Lundin sued the Discovery network. The lawsuit alleged that Joe Teti, the show’s co-host, threatened to kill Lundin while filming. Lundin also said that show producers instructed him to act crazy on set.
In reality, Teti waved an ice ax at Lundin and threatened to bury him underneath a Norwegian mountain. Then, Teti threatened Lundin again while they were filming the reality show in Hawaii when Teti told him he would stab him with a spear.
“Naked and Afraid” and Receiving Help?
Contestants on “Naked and Afraid” exposed the show, saying that it was fake and resulted in lower ratings. The show has a pair of survivors to live solely off the wilderness for 21 days. Therefore, getting assistance from crew members would defeat the entire purpose.
The Daily Mail disclosed that a show contestant received bread, rice, and baby food after she got sick from eating a turtle. She also got an IV drip to avoid dehydration. This was vital for her survival, so the show should’ve been more transparent and said this claim was true.
Naked and Coached to Be Afraid
Honora Bowen and Matt Struzel were contestants on the Brazilian version’s third season. Struzel completed the three weeks, but Bowen had to leave before the end. After she quit, she published a blog about her time on “Naked and Afraid” and revealed show secrets.
Bowen wrote that producers instructed her to argue with Struzel to make the show more dramatic. She claimed she was told what to say about her backstory. She had a bladder infection, not heat exhaustion, and had to lie about having the condition to leave the show.
A Not so Happy Spinoff
“Counting Cars” first premiered in 2012. It was a “Pawn Stars” spinoff and centered around an auto shop called “Count’s Kustoms” that bought, sold, and customized unique cars. Danny Koker was the car guru on “Pawn Stars,” which is why he was qualified to get his own show.
Based on what viewers saw on television, customers who visited his shop appeared happy, but many of their people were not. The auto shop’s location was not on a good side of town, and all the products were overpriced.
Only the Best Make the Final Cut
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are the stars of “American Pickers,” a series where the men search for items that were thrown away but turn out to be very valuable. But it’s not only Frank and Mike doing the hard work – their store manager Danielle also helps them.
The truth is that most of the items they find aren’t seen on camera because the producers look through everything and then pick out the best items. It makes sense for TV because not every trip is guaranteed to have a treasured find, but it seems dishonest.
American Pickers Pick in Advance
“Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” are shows on the same network, so they have the same regulations and format. Rick Harrison looked like he was pals with everyone, but he never actually found any of the items shown on the series.
The producers looked through everything around them and selected the most valuable items. They then placed these conveniently in reach on the set. By following this method, the show could be filmed much more quickly without aimlessly searching.
The Restorations Are a Bit Off
Yet another spinoff of “Pawn Stars” is the show “American Restorations.” This premise follows a group of people attempting to restore antique things to their former glory. If you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll see how the products end up looking.
However, fans started to point out some mistakes. In one episode, the wheels on the restored go-kart were all attached crooked, making the go-kart wobbly. Considering their high price tags, it’s probably best to go somewhere else for restoration services.
The “Pawns Stars” Rarely Work at Their Store
The Old Man, Rick, Chumlee, and Corey are the stars of “Pawn Stars.” Before they signed on to do the Discovery Channel show, they worked regular shifts at the store. Now, since the show has become popular, they seem to spend less time in the store.
Since the show has taken off, they barely ever go to their store because the camera crew blocks off customers and prevents sales. So, these days, the Pawn Stars only enter their store to film an episode of the show.
American Pickers is Not Reality Television
Many of the items in “American Pickers” have been planted around the set. The pickers have also found entire collections and then went on to sell only the focal pieces of the collections. They also practiced the negotiations for every item that they did sell.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise considering that it’s pretty unlikely that the seller would argue with Mike and Frank every time. What actually happens is that the target price is chosen before Mike and Frank get to the location.
Nobody Was Eaten Alive
Ads can be misleading, but this kind of misinformation is a severe offense that the Federal Trade Commission has explicit guidelines about. When “Eaten Alive,” the Discovery Channel special, premiered, viewers were angry when Paul Rosolie faced a 20-foot anaconda.
For months in the show trailers, Discovery asserted that he would be eaten alive. The team rescued him several hours later, but the snake did swallow his whole head and almost broke his arm. Naturally, the network got in loads of trouble for this.
“Eaten Alive” Enraged PETA
People were angry all over the internet over claims that the Discovery Channel misled them with its advertisements. This then got the attention of PETA, who shared their concerns about the show. PETA asserted that the snake would have died if it ate a live man.
PETA was especially concerned that Rosolie could wear a carbon-fiber suit and oxygen-supplying helmet to torture the anaconda. Their statement said they were ashamed that an “expert” would torment an animal and Discovery would encourage it.
Mama June’s Boyfriend was a Convicted Sex Offender
TLC is an entity of Discovery, and they saw a major scandal with its show, “Honey Boo Boo.” The series was canceled without warning, and fans were left guessing what happened, which was that Mama June had entered a relationship with a sex offender.
Mark McDaniel was in prison for a decade after sexually abusing June’s daughter, Anna ‘Chickadee’ Cardwell. McDaniel was found guilty of repeated molestation of Cardwell while they were sharing a bed, and only after he and June broke up did he offer an apology.
TLC and Mama June Were Sued By Chickadee for Thousands of Dollars
Despite being canceled, the show still made headlines when Chickadee sued Mama June and TLC for withholding $201,000 show-made profit from her. Chickadee said that her two-year-old daughter Kaitlyn was also supposed to get nearly $100,000.
Reports said that the family earned $22,500 per episode, which was supposed to be split among the kids. Mama June has assured the public that the money was deposited directly in her children’s bank accounts, but it wouldn’t appear that is what actually happened.
“Swamp People” Legal Troubles
“Swamp People” is a show that follows the daily life of people who work as alligator hunters down in Louisiana. This seems like a wild premise for a TV show, but their off-screen lives are full of even more exciting and unbelievable adventures.
The series’ stars, Chase Landry, Jay Paul, and Nick Payne, deal with their own legal issues. However, Joe Lafont, the trapper, has dealt with the most serious legal battle, having a history of domestic abuse that began in 2012 and continued happening in 2013 and 2015.
All TV shows are at risk of shifting their image, and reality TV shows are especially vulnerable. It’s uncommon for a show to continue to be on TV with no changes for its whole run. Though, after the sixth season of “Swamp People,” there were dramatic changes.
This all happened when suddenly twelve cast members were replaced, and the History Channel never gave an explanation for the changes. It was only when the seventh season premiered its first episode that viewers found out about the casting changes.
Not Really Off the Grid
Fans of “Mountain Men” wanted to watch a television series about a group of people who were seeking a more simplistic way of life. But the people who tune into the show feel a little conned by the “Mountain Men” cast.
That’s due to Jason Hawk running a store online and Tom and Nancy Oar having cable TV! It’s blatantly obvious that these people aren’t as off the grid as the show is attempting to make out. However, everyone has to make money to afford things.
Nothing on “Pawn Stars” Is Random
We’ve caught on by now that the History Channel often plans many of its events, but even the allegedly casual and chance encounters we see on Pawn Stars aren’t as realistic as you might assume. That’s correct; the producing team stages these, as well.
A majority of the sellers on the show are found, and then the producers plan their appearance. This also gives Rick ample time to learn about the items, leading to a bit of an easier time when negotiating with an expert.
Frank’s a Fake Antique Fan
Many “American Pickers” viewers probably assume that Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are very committed to their jobs. But the truth is that they’re not big antique fans or treasure hunters or, at least, they weren’t before both being cast on the TV show.
Mike enjoys antiques, but Frank has a completely different set of interests. Frank is much more passionate about collecting items and business. It is understandable that his business has been a big success if that’s what he’s excited about.
Koker Getting Politically Involved
Whenever “Counting Cars” star Danny Koker isn’t in his auto shop, he’s very open about his political opinions. When he appeared on “The Morning Show,” he essentially said that low-emission and hybrid vehicles were pointless. That’s a bold statement.
In addition to these car opinions, Koker was vocal about sharing his support for Donald Trump throughout the 2016 Presidential race. The network had requested that he not use his show to discuss politics, but he didn’t really seem too phased by that.
Poor Purchasing Decisions
One of the best parts of “Pawn Stars” is when people negotiate the price of their items. Many viewers aren’t aware that the show is staged, but they really enjoy how the customers and staff interact with each other. Frequently, the staff comes away with the better deal.
But there are some instances when the cast makes poor decisions, and they’ve been open, admitting their bad choices. There was one negotiation when they lost $10,000 due to one of these poor decisions!
Chumlee’s Trouble With the Law
If you’re a “Pawn Stars” fan, then you probably consider Chumlee to be an essential cast member. Most fans enjoy him because he takes a personal approach to all his customers, but despite being a chill guy, he ran into some legal trouble in 2016.
The police raided his house, and during the raid, they found drugs and several illegal guns. Fortunately for him and “Pawn Stars,” he only received probation for the possession of these, which meant he could continue with filming for the show.
The Old Man’s Controversial Will
When Richard Benjamin Harrison passed away in June 2018, his will was followed as he instructed, with his heirs: wife Joanne and three children. But it became controversial with the news the Old Man had updated the will in 2017 to cut his son Christopher out entirely.
His will expressed his love of Christopher but said that he was intentionally writing him out of his will. What made it all that much more bizarre was that there was no explanation provided for the exclusion – maybe it is still a family secret.
Potential Explanations for Exclusion From the Will
Perhaps the apparent falling out was due to the Old Man’s “tough-love” parenting style. One son said that the Old Man was very tough on his sons and grandsons. His example was from when he was 16 and swore at his dad, who then turned around and punched him.
The Old Man claimed that he could take a punch like an adult if he was old enough to speak like one. For his son Rick specifically, this “tough-love” wasn’t awful. Despite an epilepsy diagnosis, his father treated him just like everyone else, making him a more resilient man.
Success of “Street Outlaws” Stunned Producers
“Street Outlaws” is one of the most-watched shows on Discovery, and recently, Justin ‘Big Chief’ Shearer disclosed a secret: no one thought the show would be successful. He said that the show began on smaller networks, and it grew more popular from there.
Not even the producers knew how audiences would receive the show after its first season, but this meant nothing was holding them back while they were shooting. This approach worked well for them, and they’ve continued to film for ten seasons.
Fanbase of Police Officers
“Moonshiners” is a show that focuses on people who make illegal moonshine, and the public has reacted really well to the show. Despite the show’s success, one of the cast members would be pulled over by the police every so often while they were filming the show.
Typically, they can just leave without any issues, but this does add an additional element of drama to the show. There was one instance when the police officer asked Tim Smith about “Moonshiners,” and he invited the policeman over for a meal.
Risk of Confiscated Driver’s Licenses
If you’re somebody who enjoys racing cars, appearing on “Street Outlaws” will boost your reputation and will expose you to a new fanbase. However, street racing does come with risks, one of which is that you could lose your driver’s license.
In 2015, The National Hot Rod Association announced to drivers that they would confiscate their racing licenses from them if they are seen racing on the show. This tough ruling has been massively criticized, but the ruling has remained.
Too Good to Be True
There are situations when things are too unbelievably good to be true, but this TV show about high-stakes illegal street racing is not one of them. Joe Woods had absolutely no idea the show would accomplish this level of success.
It turns out that Woods thought that the whole show was meant to be a secret sting operation to shut them down. He didn’t fully trust the producers, and given the situation, he found himself in, we would be a bit closed off as well. He was involved in some sketchy stuff.
“Moonshiners” Is a Fake Show
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control released a statement that said that they had received misinformation about the show. But that was only the beginning; they also claimed that Discovery was airing a fake show.
Their statement wasn’t that surprising because viewers wondered why and how the authorities were allowing a crime to continue. That left Discovery with no other choice than to admit that moonshine is legal in Virginia, so the show’s drama was fabricated.
The Fake Megalodon Documentary
In 2013, the Discovery Channel got a lot of heat for airing a fake documentary on the network. The ‘documentary’ was named “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives” and was the first program to be shown for Shark Week.
The show was about Megalodons, 70-foot-long ancient sharks that existed 1-2 million years ago. But in the present day, they’re more legendary than alive. Viewers complained online about Discovery’s deceit. Despite all of the drama, the show had almost 4.8 million viewers!
Reality TV Castings
With the growing number of reality TV show scandals, you’re probably curious how they pick the cast members. Most cast members on reality TV shows have some drama in their backstory, but casting a convicted rapist takes it a step too far.
Hiring a convicted rapist to appear on TV is awful, but what’s worse is the amount of money that reality stars go on to make from being on these shows. Business Insider reported that the most well-known TV stars could earn up to $10 million for a single season!
Live TV From Outer Space
In 2006, the Discovery Channel made a considerable impact on the world of television when they broadcasted the first program live from outer space. Filming was done in the International Space Station, and it really elevated the genre of reality TV to a whole new level!
The live show ran for nineteen minutes and followed Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria during a tour of the space station and interviewed some of the other astronauts about their experiences working and living in space for months at a time.
The Phenomenon That Is “Planet Earth”
December 2007 was the Discovery Channel premiere of “Planet Earth.” Fans greatly loved the show, and all of their expectations were blown away with this program. The show was already carrying a loyal fanbase from the United Kingdom.
Sir David Attenborough narrated the UK version while the American version was narrated by Sigourney Weaver. When “Planet Earth” aired, 65 million homes tuned in and made it the most-watched TV series ever. It went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Series.
Discovery Learning Alliance
In 1997 came the founding of the Discovery Channel Education Partnership (now referred to as Discovery Learning Alliance). It was created to educate and support children around the world. The channel has improved education and lifestyles in specific places in the world.
The channel hosts a young scientist challenge, which is a large library of educational videos that are available for educators to show in their classrooms. They also developed online textbooks in science, math, and social studies that debuted in 2010.
A Focus on Virtual Reality
Discovery Channel has been quick to recognize that the next big thing in the world of video technology is virtual reality (VR). They even already have a whole section for full virtual reality experiences in wildlife, space, and nature.
To fully embrace this technology, the network has even created a phone app for Android and iOS called ‘Discovery VR’ for those loyal viewers who are interested in virtual reality. The network has worked to embrace the latest trends and interests of its viewers.
In 2013, Discovery Channel switched its slogan to “Grab Life by the Globe.” It encouraged more interaction between the network and viewers. This was to account for the internet and use it for viewer interactions and get more awareness and traffic about Discovery.
The change in slogan paired with the concept for fans to post their nature videos and photos online. To use the service, all viewers have to do is choose what file they want to upload and include the hashtag #GrabLife in the post’s caption.
Discovery Channel ’85 Was a Completely Different Network
In 1985, Discovery Channel was mainly focused on showing educational history and science documentaries. During the ’80s, the network also aired various news shows in their 12-hour program timeslots, along with Vremya and World Monitor.
This opened up viewers to what was happening outside of the United States in an age before the internet when they would not have been exposed to international news from other popular TV networks. The network broadcast 66 hours of Soviet TV every week!
Oldest Event on Television is Shark Week
Since 1988, Discovery Channel has aired shark-related programming for Shark Week, and it’s become an annual network tradition. It was created to raise awareness about shark conservation and address falsehoods about them that led to people killing them out of panic.
It’s the educational shows that have run the longest on TV, though it wasn’t always free of controversy. It’s been criticized for including programming known as “docufiction,” in which events in “documentaries” are reenacted in a way that stretches the truth.
NYC’s Discovery Channel Museum
Discovery Channel loves spreading and providing education, and they sponsor their own museum in New York City named Discovery Times Square. What a fantastic location spot, right in Times Square, where groups of people are always going to be passing it.
Discovery Times Square focuses on traveling exhibits and shares info paired with interactive activities. The way their exhibits are set up means it has something for all ages. It’s a huge tourist attraction, housing visitors from all over the globe.
The Evolution of Discovery Civilization Network
In 1996, Discovery Civilization was founded as a television network that addressed shows about ancient history. Then, in 2001, the New York Times newspaper bought 50% of the network shares and wanted the network to put a focus on current events.
After the involvement of NYT, the network was relaunched as Times Discovery. In 2006, the network was rebranded as Investigation Discovery when Discovery Communications bought the New York Times’ shares and transformed it into a channel about crime.
Reason Behind the Shift to Crime Programming
Henry S. Schleiff, the president of Investigation Discovery, shared with a New York Times reporter during their interview in 2015 about his reasoning behind wanting to develop a crime network. And he makes some pretty interesting points.
Schleiff stated that he wanted a crime-only network because of how well crime TV shows have done, like NCIS and Law & Order: CSI. He wanted to give viewers a place that they could turn it on at any hour of the day to find a suspenseful crime show.
Goal of Cost-Effective Television
Besides wanting to launch a TV channel where people can always be able to watch a captivating mystery or crime show, Schleiff wished to make an economically viable network. Especially considering that show business is a costly business.
To make investigatory crime programming for Investigation Discovery would only cost the network around 10% of the costs as part of creating scripted drama shows. This is evidence that the shows that keep viewers hooked on their TVs don’t have to come with a big budget.
Women Can’t Get Enough Of Investigation Discovery
Schleiff made the right call when he created Investigation Discovery, as it is currently one of the top five most popular cable networks for women ages 24 – 54 years old. If that isn’t the pinnacle of success, then we don’t know what is.
Women reportedly love tuning in to use their analytical thinking to try and solve the crime stories. They also feel that they’re coming away having learned something by watching the programming on Investigation Discovery. A true-crime mystery engages the brain.
Executive Team Behind Name Choices
One of the earliest attention-grabbers when it comes to TV is a great show title. You’re more likely to a couple of episodes of a series with an excellent title. Whenever a new show is filmed, the entire executive team gets together for a brainstorming session.
Schleiff said in an interview that he stands behind the process the network chooses to follow in order to develop ideas. Whenever they meet, they all suggest different ideas out loud without any predetermined order, and he absolutely loves it.
Discovery Has Many Famous Fans
We’ve already said that Investigation Discovery has a loyal female fanbase who watch their programming. But what we didn’t mention was that many of these repeat viewers are well-known celebrities. And these are some of the most famous women on Earth.
You might be in disbelief when you hear that some Discovery fans include Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Serena Williams. Maybe they enjoy relaxing from all their appearances and high-flying lifestyles by figuring out who the criminal was. Everyone has their weakness!
The Crime Convention of 2016
2016 brought Investigation Discovery’s crime convention in New York City, IDCON. Fans raced to buy tickets to attend the event, and tickets sold out in under a day! This just serves as proof of just how popular investigation and crime shows are for audiences.
The convention not only sold out at record speeds, but they had so many people trying to attend that they had to make an entrance ticket waiting list on which 7,000 fans’ names were listed. Another convention took place in 2017, and it was also a big success.