Some say Moonshiners is a masterpiece of a show, and others can’t help but notice it’s as real as Teen Wolf. Watchers of the show have always wondered how Tim Smith and Tickle have managed to stay out of jail. This is one of the burning questions since they are technically making an illegal substance.
This brings us to a bigger question, is the Moonshiner TV show real or fake? The Discovery Channel show has been on air since 2011 and now spans over 11 seasons. In the show, you can get to see how the 200-year-old moonshine-making tradition is done. The whole series is dramatized to show how the characters evade law enforcement and hide to create the high-proof liquor, or do they?
Let’s take you through the whole idea behind Moonshiners and get you to see why the show has been on the air for so many years. A lot of speculation lies behind its illegality and legitimacy, leaving much to speculation. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have decided on whether you want to watch the show or look for something more realistic.
What is Moonshiners TV Show?
Moonshiners is an American documentary and drama television show that began airing on the Discovery Channel in 2011. Moonshiners is centered around characters making illegal moonshine in various parts of the United States, including Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky.
The main actors of the show who have made appearances since day one are Tim Smith and Tickle; both are moonshiners. Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton is perhaps the most famous moonshiner in the world who was only featured in the show’s first season. However, it is essential to note that the footage wasn’t made for the show.
Marvin Sutton, albeit a famous moonshiner and worth surprise guest on the show, wasn’t around when the show got filmed. The Moonshiners team bought the footage from the documentary it was meant for – This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make (The Last One).
Tim Smith remains the main man of the show. He continues to campaign to accept the moonshine practices by showing its authenticity and rich tradition. He hopes to encourage more people to see the value of his team by rooting for a multi-generation moonshining family that continues to escape the arms of the Law.
Moonshiners is produced by a production company called Magilla Entertainment. Magilla is the same producer of other similar reality TV shows like Submissive Wives’ Guide to Marriage, King of Thrones, Militia Rising, and America’s Worst Tattoos.
As a reality TV Show, you can expect that most of what is depicted happens in real life. The equipment they use is the same type of equipment real moonshiners would use. Moreover, the evading tactics they employ to escape from law enforcement may as well be what real moonshiners do.
However, it can be hard to determine whether the moonshine they make is real or fake; it could as well be water. So, how do we determine if the show is fake or real?
Check out one of the episodes:
Is Moonshiners Show Real or Fake?
Let us start off by examining the reputation of the production company of Moonshiners – Magilla Entertainment.
The production company has some misleading shows.
The New York-based company is notoriously known for pushing out deceptive reality TV shows that are heavily scripted. Needless to say, it cannot be a huge stretch to think such a company would bring its deceptive tactics to the Moonshiners show.
One of its prominent shows on the airwaves is Southie Rules which gets attacked for its fakeness every episode. The same goes for the Long Island Medium and Lakefront Bargain Hunt. The latter show has one of the most controversial episodes. An interior decorator, Robin Corbeil, has chosen a house from three different houses, only for fans to find out he had already bought the house two years before filming the show.
Despite all the downvotes and criticism the company receives, it appears to be making profits from most of its ventures. However, it would be best to suffice that Magilla is not the company to rely on for quality and realistic reality TV shows.
Some cast members were tricked into getting on the show
How can you trust a show that casts members without their full consent? Well, that is what the production team of Moonshiners did. It starts with Jesse Tate, a law enforcement agent from the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau.
According to the Virginia ABC, “Virginia ABC agreed to participate in an informative piece documenting the history of moonshine and moonshine investigations in Virginia. Virginia ABC did not participate nor was aware of the false depiction of moonshine manufacturing, distribution, and/or transportation in the filming, and would not have participated in the ‘documentary’ had it known of this portrayal.”
Jesse only appeared in season one and never made another appearance due to the stunt the Moonshiners team pulled. He claimed that the producers were not fully open about the show and only needed him to create their illusion for the viewers.
Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton is another cast member that some viewers might think was a willing participant. The footage of Sutton on the show is real, but sadly, Marvin was not alive when the show was being filmed.
The show’s producers purchased the footage to add to their credibility since Sutton was a famous moonshiner who was even awaiting trial for illegally distilling spirits right before his untimely death.
There is no way to prove it is real or fake if no physical samples get tested
The only true way to determine whether the show is real or fake is to get a physical sample of the moonshine and test its composition. Tim Smith spoke to Bourbon Blog and said it was not enough to see someone make moonshine on the screen to say it is real or fake. This is because you cannot tell if the substance gets created is moonshine or any other substance like water.
However, one may want to think it is real since the show was originally meant to talk about legal moonshine. Magilla Entertainment producers first thought it would be too risky to make a show about illicit moonshine, so they had a plan for a legal one. They later scratched that script out since the story wasn’t as compelling or entertaining. Needless to say, they have all the moonshine-making experience a show like this would need.
How is Moonshiners Show Legal? What the Law says.
To quote the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), “If an illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action.” This statement was made after ABC took a look into the show and its practices, only to conclude that it was fake and just dramatized the whole moonshining tradition.
One important thing to note when it comes to moonshine is that it is illegal because of its untaxed sales, not the illicit nature of the drink. The alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau classifies moonshine under the specialty spirit category. You are prohibited from producing the moonshine for sale and distribution; unless you get a permit, which is expensive and hard to get.
Moonshiners are rarely arrested. But once caught, they are usually charged with tax evasion with a sentence of about ten years in prison. There is also an added clause where the criminal forfeits the land used for making the illegal moonshine.
Regardless of whether the moonshiners in the show are making the illicit drug or not, it still stands that the crew isn’t committing any crimes. The production crew is said to be merely documenting the story of these moonshiners, which is not an illegal act in the United States.
Moreover, even if the illicit drink was being made, we can conclude that the show aired months after the drug was produced. This means there would have been enough time for the moonshiners to get rid of the evidence and not get followed by law enforcement. Either way, no Moonshiners member is going to jail anytime soon.
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So, is the Moonshiners TV show real or fake? Well, it depends on what you would consider real or fake. The production processes they use to make moonshine are real, and so are the evading tactics, albeit more dramatized and romanticized. Moreover, moonshine making is a low-level crime that many police may ignore or not pay much attention to. From this perspective, we may conclude the show is real.
However, the illegality of what they advertise is unquestionable. And as per the Virginia ABC, they would be in jail if they did anything illegal warrantying their arrest. And since law enforcement hasn’t done anything about it after looking into the show, then we can assume no real moonshine is being made. From this perspective, the Moonshiners TV Show is fake.
All in all, it is hard to tell what is true and what isn’t. Ultimately, the doubt happens to be half the fun for the viewers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does Discovery Channel pay the cast of Moonshiners?
Discovery Channel pays the cast of Moonshiners $30,000 per episode on top of their salary. Their net worth varies as they are involved in other ventures like Tim Smith with his legal signature Climax Whiskey.
Who died from the show Moonshiners?
Lance Waldroup was a bootlegger in the show who died on February 25, 2021, at 30 years of age. The father did not disclose the cause of death, but it has been said to be congestive heart failure as per the autopsy obtained by TMZ.
Who is the most famous moonshiner?
Good old hillbilly Popcorn Sutton, officially known as Marvin Sutton, is the most famous moonshiner. He died at 62 by suicide; it is said he ended his life to evade going to prison for his illicit drug production.
However, it was later noted he had cancer too. The famous moonshiner is known for embracing the moonshining tradition like no other to self-publish an autobiography documenting his life and practices.