Running a TV channel can’t be that easy. You have to keep up with trends, try to come up with ideas that are just dissimilar enough from the competition’s that they don’t sue you, and always be ready to completely change your channel’s format and name so it stays relevant.
An example of this was when Kentucky Fried Chicken became “KFC” because they realized that using the word “fried” suggested that it was fast-food, which sounds unhealthy. Remember when A&E was “Arts and Entertainment”? We do. However, they changed it during the rise of reality TV.
That’s not the only secret A&E is keeping, though. The network puts out a lot of shows, many of which depend on people being kind of awful. Therefore many things have come up that they’d rather the audience (and advertisers) not know about.
Their various successful series have a number of scandalous doings and controversies behind them– and we don’t just mean the stuff hiding in pretty much everyone’s fridge on Hoarders.
Some of these secrets involve stars going rogue through bad off-screen behavior, while in the case of others, the undesirable details are a part of the shows themselves. However, regardless of the source, the network would definitely like to keep these controversies quiet.
With that said, here are the 16 Secrets That A&E Wants You To Completely Forget.
16. A member of Storage Wars tried to sue A&E
Dave Hester was the “villain” on Storage Wars– a show that combines the manufactured excitement of auctions with the “What’s behind the door?” uncertainty of Let’s Make A Deal. When Hester left the show after three seasons, he tried to bring the whole thing down with him.
A&E fired Hester, who sued for wrongful termination.
He claimed that the network canned him after he complained that producers were planting items into storage lockers, as the contents are supposed to be secret until after the bidding.
Further, he stated that they gave money to “weaker” teams in order to grant them an unfair advantage.
A judge threw out the part of Hester’s lawsuit alleging shenanigans after A&E argued that those rules didn’t apply because Storage Wars is not a game show. However, they never actually denied the accusations. They also settled the rest of the suit, and Hester returned to the show.
15. Gangland almost ended someone’s life
Gangland aired on The History Channel, which A&E also owns. Each episode tells the history of a different American criminal organization. One of them spawned a lawsuit with charges a little more serious than accidentally indicating some lawyers for fraud.
William Austin used to be a member of the white supremacist group Public Enemy No. 1 until his fellow criminals tried to end his life. After that, he (understandably) broke ties and became a government witness against the gang.
A sixth-season episode of Gangland was about Public Enemy No. 1, and Austin claims that the program used his picture without his permission, which suggested that he was still affiliated with the organization.
Austin sued for $50,000, claiming that A&E profited from using his likeness while he received death threats. Also since his former gangmates were already trying to track him down, this created a huge problem.
14. A&E gave money to the KKK
A&E covers some controversial subjects in its documentary work, such as religious cults, mental illness, and violent gangs. So when we heard that it was working on an eight-hour series called Generation KKK — which it later changed to the less sensational Escaping the KKK — it just seemed like their normal fare.
However, Escaping never aired thanks to some dodgy actions behind the scenes.
It’s normal for producers to pay participants in reality shows small stipends for their appearances. On a cooking competition series like Hell’s Kitchen, for example, contestants receive about $20 or $30 a day. However, it’s less ethical to pay documentary subjects, especially if they’re white supremacists.
13. American Takedown accused the wrong lawyers
American Takedown was a series created by producer Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) that followed elite law enforcement teams as they investigated crimes. While successful crimefighting is a long process that requires an incredible attention to detail, producing reality shows isn’t.
The third episode was about an elaborate insurance scam in Florida. Whoever captured the B-roll grabbed a shot of a sign for the offices of Larry Meltzer and Steven Bell, two DUI lawyers.
The editors then included this sign in the episode, even though it was completely wrong. While Meltzer and Bell were the names of two of the people who the police were investigating, they were mostly focused on Cory Meltzer and Roger Bell.
12. Steven Seagal’s questionable qualifications
Many fans were never sure what to make of Steven Seagal: Lawman, which follows the action star’s side gig as a reserve deputy sheriff in Louisiana. The show has a bizarre, unlikely premise that seems (and looks) too goofy to be true.
That’s not to say that either Seagal’s work or the show itself are fake. He scored the job after teaching martial arts to a couple of Jefferson Parish deputies in the ‘80s. The sheriff liked having him around so much that he asked him to stay. However, we hope that it takes more to receive a badge and a gun than just being good at kicking things.
Seagal says he’s completed the Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements. However, apparently no records of his qualifications exist. He technically doesn’t need them in Louisiana, though, as long as he’s working with a post-accredited officer. So if that’s the case, it’s a silly thing to lie about.
11. The Fake License On Flip This House
Perhaps the producers and stars didn’t stage all of Flip This House. However, entire chunks of it were completely fabricated, and they were so blatant that the network later tried to erase them completely.
This is thanks to Sam Laccima, who not only never own any of the homes that he claimed to be renovating for resale, but who also cast his friends and family members as “buyers,” skimped on the repairs that he did do, and lied about even having a license to deal in property.
Laccima had a license but lost it in 2005, a year before he appeared on Flip This House. The Georgia Real Estate Commission revoked his license because it doubted his honesty and competence.
10. 8 Minutes didn’t follow the rules
A&E’s 8 Minutes followed former police officer and current pastor Kevin Brown as he blindsided street workers with unsolicited advice in order to try to convince them to quit “the life.” While this may already make it one of the creepiest shows that A&E has ever produced, it was actually even worse.
Several participants of 8 Minutes leveled a variety of charges at the producers. One of which included that the show failed to provide promised financial, legal, and medical assistance.
All of the street workers reportedly receieved was a few hundred dollars for participating. They were also told to refer others to Brown.
The workers also stated that producers didn’t obscure their identities as they requested, which compromised their safety and put their jobs at risk.
9. Cajun Justice gave up on A&E
Lawman wasn’t A&E’s only show about Louisiana cops. Cajun Justice followed Terrebonne Parish’s sheriff Vernon Bourgeois and his deputies while they dealt with poachers, crypt vandals, and the country’s second largest Mardi Gras celebration. It was a reasonably successful show… until Bourgeois wasn’t the sheriff anymore.
The new boss, Jerry Larpenter, didn’t think that Cajun Justice was fair in how it depicted the parish. This was fair since the show often went out of its way to make it look like the place is full of maniacs. (It’s almost as though reality TV series try to focus on the crazy and dramatic aspects of life.)
Larpenter refused to continue allowing A&E to make the show there. The network countered with an offer, promising to pay the Sheriff’s Office $10,000 instead of the previous $1,500. However, Larpenter turned the offer down.
8. Shipping Wars was an ad
Sadly, Shipping Wars was about freelance transporters and not online arguments about which fictional characters should fall in love. It was also pretty fake. However, we’ve come to expect that from reality TV, so that’s not our biggest problem with it.
The main issue is that the show, which is ostensibly about plucky movers handling the jobs that professional companies can’t (or won’t) handle, is just stealth advertising for the company that the characters use to score jobs. That company is uShip, which uses eBay-style auctions to connect customers with individual shippers and other companies.
This raises the question as to why uShip is necessary at all, since customers can — and probably should — deal with a company directly instead of going through an intermediary.
7. Beyond Scared Straight didn’t help crime
The landmark 1978 documentary Scared Straight! was about convicts yelling at juvenile delinquents to try to make them too terrified to ever want to go to prison. T
he A&E series Beyond Scared Straight follows a similar story. Producers claim that it’s about “transforming the lives of young people through intervention and second chances.” However, we already know this company’s record for interventions.
Critics say that these fear tactics don’t necessarily promote the kind of drastic life changes that they claim to enforce.
In fact, one of the original participants, Angelo Speziale, is currently serving a life sentence for assault and murder in the same prison that he visited as a teen.
A 2004 study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy also stated that Scared Straight programs end up costing over 200 times than what states spend on them. It concluded that therapy and mentoring programs are way more effective.
6. Phil Robertson’s offensive GQ interview
Duck Dynasty was one of A&E’s most successful shows, and not even a public relations nightmare could stop it.
Show star Phil Robertson had a notorious interview with GQ, during which he graphically expressed his preference for women’s body parts over men’s. He used this to argue that homosexuality makes no sense.
He also claimed that he “never saw the mistreatment of any black person” in Louisiana before the Civil Rights Movement and said that people were more “godly” without entitlements and welfare.
A&E suspended Robertson from the show “indefinitely,” which turned out to be about a week and a half. Outrage from fans and politicians, as well as reported death threats to network CEO Nancy Dubuc, led to the reversal, and Duck Dynasty continued inexplicably.
5. Live PD Puts Innocent Lives At Risk
Live PD, which airs almost completely unfiltered footage of police responding to calls, just sounds like a terrible idea from the beginning. However, it has somehow managed to avoid showing anything too scandalous… well, almost.
In one episode, Tulsa Gang Unit officers confronted citizen Randy Wallace and accused him of being a gang member. Wallace stated that these claims were false, and his side of the interaction went viral on social media.
Another incident had officers confronting and arresting a reportedly armed suspect. Viewing that event, Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum claimed that the film crew was a “distraction” and could possibly put citizens at risk. Police chief Chuck Jordan also neglected to renew the department’s contract with A&E when it expired.
4. Paranormal State’s Ryan Buell has been arrested multiple times
What if we told you that producers plan the ghost-hunting excursions on Paranormal State from beginning to end in order to ensure that they end up with a usable product? It’s shocking, we know– after all, it suggests that ghosts aren’t real. However, what if we also told you that this wasn’t even the most scandalous part of the show?
That would be investigator and Paranormal Research Society founder Ryan Buell, who has filled his life with questionable behavior.
This includes lying about having pancreatic cancer, selling $80,000 in tickets for a “Conversations With the Dead” tour that never happened, and multiple arrests for theft, receiving stolen property, harassment, and assault.
3. Neighbors With Benefits mislabeled an entire neighborhood
If you were on vacation for the last couple weeks of March 2015, it’s possible that you’ve never seen Neighbors with Benefits. It was a documentary series about suburban swingers in Ohio. Originally, A&E ordered nine episodes, but the network canceled it after only two aired.
Part of this was probably due to low ratings and bad reviews. However, it probably didn’t help that the community that the show takes place in was offended by its claim that the area where the stars lived was “a neighborhood with a lot of swingers.”
Residents of Thornton Grove argued that the show characterized their neighborhood as a place that “you can go door-to-door in lingerie and hook up.”
2. Hoarders went door to door
The psychological series Hoarders moved to A&E’s sister station Lifetime for its seventh season, where it receieved a new subtitle (“Family Secrets”). However, besides this, it remained to be the same show. Unfortunately, it debuted at its new home with its worst episode ever.
Hoarders Live was a one-time event that sent psychologist Dr. David Tolin to go from home to home. Once there, he was forced to stand awkwardly in a cluttered yard and count down the time before he was allowed to knock on the homeowner’s door.
The series is usually sympathetic and tasteful, but it squandered all of that goodwill with this sensationalist gawking and awkward interviews. This all happened while the subject was probably watching it unfold from inside.
1. Intervention never really helped anyone
Intervention is one of the few series on A&E that’s even more depressing than Hoarders. Most episodes end with its subjects going off to receive treatment for their addictions, but the epilogue text often reveals that they’ve relapsed– and sometimes it’s even worse than that.
Over a dozen people who appeared on Intervention have since passed away.
Also, it speaks to how bleak the show is when we feel relieved to learn that they passed in a car accident, and not from something else. However, occasionally it is due to something else…
At least two subjects tragically passed away before their episodes even aired. Lawrence Ryan from season 4 returned to alcoholism after the rehab facility kicked him out. He later succumbed to cirrhosis. Taylor Bittler, who just appeared in this year’s “The Heroin Triangle” special series, passed away just after filming due to undisclosed causes.
Can you think of any other secrets that A&E is trying to hide? Let us know in the comment section!
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