Reality TV has certainly come a long way. In its humble beginnings, it was about watching people do crazy things for money. Sometimes, they were trapped on an island and had to make fire. Other times, they had to eat the intestines of something that wasn’t meant to be eaten.
Nowadays, whatever your niche is, you can pretty much find an reality show dedicated to it. One of the latest examples is the History Channel’s Forged in Fire. Each episode sees four contestants – usually male – compete in the age old art of bladesmithing.
Due to the show’s popularity, the popularity of bladesmithing is once again on the rise. Where many used to consider it a dead art, they now see the value in crafting knives from scratch.
The show sets itself apart by not featuring any personal drama. It’s probably one of the most civilized challenges on TV. Everything is about the art of the blade. Often, we’ll even see contestants helping each other out when faced with particularly difficult challenges.
No show is without its dirty laundry though. They may be nice, but they aren’t perfect. Here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind Forged In Fire You Had No Idea About.
15. It’s basically Chopped combined with Pawn Stars
There’s probably no reality show more inherently manly than Forged in Fire. It’s a show about swords and knives. It’s a show where realistic body dummies are regularly disemboweled. Heroic shields, swords and battle axes from across history often make up the final challenge. So what’s its connection to cooking shows?
It’s a strong one, actually. The idea for the show was cooked up by History Channel VP Tim Healy. Healy came up with the idea when his 14 year old daughter introduced him to cooking shows. He fell in love, and immediately sought to replicate that experience for the History Channel. He learned from Pawn Stars and American Pickers that weapons spike ratings. So he put two and two together and Forged in Fire was born.
14. It Was Almost about guns
Oksy, so Healy had his concept. He wanted a cooking show, but with a twist. Instead weird recipes for cakes, participants would have to use weird recipes for knives. He had an outline, now he needed to fine tune it.
Around the same time, another idea was being pitched around the water cooler. Jodi Flynn, a producer at Outpost Entertainment, had an idea for a show called Gunsmiths. It was basically going to be Project Runway, but for men making guns. The show would have had the same contestants last over a full season. So the network took that concept and merged it with Healy’s knife idea.
The version we have now has four different contestants each episode. This gives us a richer look at those involved in the culture. It also means the show doesn’t have to change its format too much, just tweak the challenges each week.
13. J. Nielson Lets His Kids Forge Blades
A Vice reporter visited the set of Forged in Fire. While there, Neilson showed the reporter videos of his kids. In the video, the kids were forging their first knives. At the time of the report, these kids were 9 and 14.
Far be it from us to give parenting advice. However, at 9 years old, should a kid really be working with that kind of machinery? Even if daddy is an expert, that still seems like a bad idea. We’re talking about hammers, sand paper, sharp edges and hot metal.
12. The Show Is Still Sketchy About Women
The concept of bladesmithing is traditionally masculine. One of the contestants once compared his craft to making love to a woman. That said, it’s not like women aren’t interested in the art. And it’s not like the judges don’t recognize it. By Marcaida’s own admission, once he understood the mechanics behind it, he realized that it was for everyone.
Still, Forged in Fire lasted an entire season without one female competitor. In the second season, only two women braved the forge. Producers and show-runners have been sketch at best about their responses to this. Tim Healy was quoted as saying “I don’t want to shoehorn in female characters for the sake of having female characters.”
11. A Fan of the show started A Huge Fire
There doesn’t really need to be a disclaimer on Forged in Fire, right? People should have enough common sense to know that without the proper techniques, tools, and training, they shouldn’t attempt to forge weapons out of their homes. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
John Gomes liked the show. He liked it so much that he decided to forge a sword in his own backyard. It took firefighters the better part of six hours to quell a fire caused by his attempt. The fire burned through almost 30 buildings, leaving as many people displaced in Cohoes, New York.
Gomes’ public defender said “this is just a terrible, unfortunate accident, but it’s not a crime.” Still, he was charged with fourth degree arson and reckless endangerment. The lesson here? Don’t try this at home.
10. Doug Marcaida Is Actually A Really Dangerous Guy
Of all the judges on the show, Doug Marcaida appears to be the most kind at heart. He is always smiling. Even when he criticizes a blade, he usually follows it up with some kind of compliment. But it’s the nicest ones you have to watch out for. Pay attention to his introduction.
The show proudly states that he’s designed “some of the world’s deadliest weapons.” That’s not an exaggeration. While the knives on the show serve many purposes, Marcaida’s line of weaponry serves just one. Don’t believe us? Check out his website. The DMaX II Karambit and the Fox Dart XT are meant for one thing: taking out the most dangerous game.
9. Marcaida Mispronounces The Word “Kill” for a reason
Forged in Fire is, above all, a family show. At least, that’s what Doug Marcaida believes. You may recognize his catch phrase “it will kill.” He utters this upon disemboweling test dummies. Pay attention though, because that’s not actually what he says. At least, not anymore.
What he actually says is “it will KEAL.” This acronym, which Marcaida came up with himself, stands for “Keep Everyone Alive.” Marcaida knows there are kids watching. He wants them to know that the violent weaponry they’re being marketed actually saves lives. He’s never explicitly stated any of this in the show, though. So all it really amounts to is little parrots running around spouting “it will kill!”
8. J. Neilson Was Brought On As The Mean Judge
American Idol solidified one man’s career above all others. No, not Adam Lambert. No, certainly not Clay Aiken. We’re referring to Simon Cowell. Ever since the sour Brit first graced our TV. screens, no reality judging panel has felt complete without the resident meany.
On Forged in Fire, that role is occupied by J. Neilson. Of all the judges, Neilson is the one who’s most well versed in the actual art of forging. By his own admission, “they didn’t hire me for my comic timing.”
Contrary to the perpetually smiling Marcaida, viewers rarely see Neilson flash his pearly whites. During the challenges, he often makes snarky remarks about the contestants’ methods. He may have succeeded in making anyone cry yet, but the show is only on its fourth season.
7. Neither Doug and Wil Know How to Forge
To be fair, reality TV hosts are rarely experts. Ryan Seacrest is certainly not a singer. Joe Rogan probably wouldn’t eat a quarter of those things, no matter how much they paid him. So it’s not a huge surprise that Wil Willis didn’t initially know how to forge blades. He was once a military man, so his weapons knowledge is still extensive.
It’s more surprising that Doug Marcaida didn’t know how to do it. Marcaida is not only a judge on the panel, but as we previously stated, he owns and sells his own line of knives. He is an edged weapons expert and a martial arts specialist.
Both men were finally taught by fellow judge J. Neilson during the show’s third season. History even released a short video documenting the event. Doug remarks at one point in the video “this is why I pay people for this!”
6. It’s against the law for contestants to keep their weapons
It’s one of the shows’ most iconic moments. After each round, one blade smith is sent home. Fans of the show know Wil’s parting words well: “Surrender your weapon.” Each loser walks up to the judges’ table, lays their blade down, and leaves the room. What the fans don’t know, is that it’s not just for show.
Even the winners must surrender their pieces before they leave. This isn’t even because of evil network executives. The real reason is that the law wouldn’t permit the show to continue otherwise. Knives the size of the ones which are crafted on the show would not be allowed outside of the studio. Therefore, they have to be considered props.
5. It Was Initially Going To Be About Cutlery
We’ve now discussed the shows roots at length. We know it was inspired by a 14 year old girl’s love of cooking shows. We know that in its infancy, it was almost about guns. One other interesting tidbit is that it might also have been about cutlery.
This isn’t as strange as it sounds. The process that goes into forging eating utensils is almost identical to that of forging weapons. If a sword isn’t sharp, it won’t kill on the battlefield. However, if a steak knife isn’t sharp, it… won’t cut steak.
Of course, this probably would have limited the show’s ability to come up with radical challenges. Healy also felt that cooking and cutlery just weren’t quite right for the History Channel’s demographic.
4. Most Of The Contestants Make Cutlery for a Living
The other reason the show might have been about cutlery is that many of the contestants are also experts in that area. This may come as a shock, but forging battle axes does not make for a steady paycheck. Aside from the possible $10,00o prize, these people have to eat. Forging fine dining utensils can make for a pretty solid customer base.
Many of the show’s former contestants make their bread and butter in this way. Murray Carter is one example. He is the owner of Carter Cutlery. He is one of many former contestants to do a YouTube video detailing his appearance on the show. JD Smith is another example. On his website, swords are advertised along with cutlery, but not a whole lot of people going around buying medieval weaponry.
3. Wil caters to kids
As we’ve already said, kids watch this show. It’s a fact that the producers are very aware of. Here’s another example of the cast drawing them in. The final challenge always involves a classic weapon. The last two competitors are sent home. Once they arrive, they have five days to forge it. Then the bring it back and run it through some serious testing.
Host Wil Willis dramatically reveals the weapon from under a red cloth. He then proceeds to briefly describe its history. He usually ends it by providing some modern use of the weapon. Of course, most ancient weapons are only relevant in fantasy. So Wil uses examples like X-Men or Lord of the Rings to give the weapons context. This is a move aimed directly at the show’s younger audience.
2. The Judges Perform The Challenges Before The Competitors
This one actually makes sense. The show throws something unexpected at the contestants every time. Sometimes, they’re presented with a pile of scrap metal and instructed to make a knife out of it. On other occasions, they’ll have to forgo electricity. Someone has to make sure the challenges are doable. Otherwise, there’d be no episode to watch.
Neilson, the resident knife expert, performs the first two challenges. These always involve having to make a blade out of something impossible in a few hours. Someone is then eliminated, and the remaining three contestants must perfect their weapons. After that, the blades are tested on bones or something.
1. Leftfield Pictures Is Suing Fox
Forged in Fire is produced by Outpost Entertainment. Outpost Entertainment is a subsidiary of Leftfield Pictures. Still following us? Good. In 2014, the two made an agreement. Leftfield would produce the first ever reality program for Fox Business Network.
A few months later, FBN pulled out of the deal. During that time, Leftfield had already began producing episodes. Now Leftfield is suing for $4.5 million. Not much is known about what the show might have entailed. A heavily copy-protected version of the suit is publicly available online.
Pulling out of the deal was a strange move on Fox’s part. Leftfield Pictures has some winning shows to its name. (Ever heard of Pawn Stars?) Public details about the project are sketchy. FBN did recently begin airing its first reality TV show, Strange Inheritance.
Are there any other secrets from Forged in Fire that we might not have found? Let us know in the comments!
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