Since its launch in 1995, The History Channel has been educating viewers on past events through a wide array of documentary films and TV series. Programs like How the Earth was Made and History’s Lost & Found helped bring important teachings of the past in to the living rooms of millions of viewers.
However, many devoted fans have noted a change in the History Channel’s programming over the past couple of years. At first the new content was a way to keep viewers interested in between historical features, but the channel has become a reality show haven. When tuning into the network, you’re more likely to catch a work place reality show like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, or Counting Cars than you are to find a historical tv show or film.
This decision to develop reality shows has been a source of criticism for several reasons. While many have criticized The History Channel for shying away from their primary focus, others have criticized the flaws in the reality shows that the network airs. Their criticism is sometimes aimed at a show’s cast, both for their on and off-screen behaviour, or for its altered depiction of reality. Whatever the reason, there are some things that the stars of these shows aren’t too eager to talk about.
Here are the 15 secrets that History Channel reality stars don’t want you to know.
15 They Don’t Really Work at the Store (Pawn Stars)
Set in the now world famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, Pawn Stars centres around the day-to-day lives of Rick, Corey, Chum lee, and The Old Man as they examine and purchase any number of artifacts and pieces of memorabilia.
While it’s true that the cast of the show worked at the shop regularly before the camera crews started hanging around, that is not the case today.The cast being at the shop actually gets in the way of regular business, with camera crews and fans getting in the way of customers and sales.
Nowadays, Rick and the gang only come in to the shop for filming, which doesn’t happen every day. If you’re looking to meet the guys, you’re probably better off going to one of their many public appearances around Las Vegas.
14 The Shop has Poor Customer Reviews (Counting Cars)
A spin-off of Pawn Stars, Counting Cars premiered in 2012. The show follows the crew at Count’s Kustoms auto shop as they buy, sell, and customize any number of unique vehicles. Shop owner Danny Koker was the go-to car expert on Pawn Stars before becoming the focus of his own show, providing advice on nearly anything with wheels and a motor.
While those who appear on the show have been more than pleased with the work done at Count’s Kustoms, those viewers who visited the shop were less than impressed.
Whether it be complaints about the shop’s sketchy location or overpriced merchandise, many fans were simply expecting more. Maybe you’re better off just watching the shop on TV.
13 The Finds Aren't Really Lucky (American Pickers)
American Pickers follows Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as the scour the country in search of anything antique. The pair, along with their shop manager Danielle, track down collectors and pick out the best they have to offer. While there is no doubt that the items that are found in the collections are real, there is a lot more to the process of tracking them down than is seen on screen.
The show’s producers are actually responsible for the majority of the collections that Mike and Frank look through. Many of the collectors that appear on the show submit their collections to American Pickers and their merchandise is examined beforehand. Only after the producers scout out the best spots do Mike and Frank actually look through a person’s antiques.
12 The Experts Are Chosen by Producers (Pawn Stars)
It seems like Rick Harrison has a friend for everything. Whether a customer brings in an antique firearm, a historical document, a piece of sports memorabilia, or anything in between, Rick always has an expert in that field that he can call in for advice.
While it’s probably no surprise that these experts are called in for their appearances ahead of time, it is surprising to know that they are found not by Rick himself, but by the show’s producers.
Pawn Stars producers sought out the team of experts whose knowledge would aid in the show’s legitimacy and who would fit the show’s aesthetic. Once this detail is known, it’s no wonder that so many of these experts have gotten their own History Channel shows.
11 The Team Makes Mistakes (American Restoration)
Another Pawn Stars spin-off, American Restoration centres around Rick Dale and his antique restoration team. The projects that appear on the show are the product of hours of care and years of experience. The main purpose of the show is making these very old items look as good as new. However, there are viewers with an eye for detail that have noticed some serious flaws in Rick’s work.
While some of these problems are as small as blemishes or chips in an item’s paint, other issues are far more noticeable. A good example can be found in the episode “Secret Fan,” in which a viewer noted that the wheels on a restored go-kart were mounted crooked, causing the kart to wobble when rolling.
For the amount of money that Rick and the team charge it might just be better to take your antiques elsewhere.
10 Legal Troubles (Swamp People)
Swamp People is about the day-to-day lives of a group of alligator hunters in Lousiana. As dangerous as that sounds, many of the hunter's lives are more chaotic off-screen than they are on the show; Nick Payne, RJ, Jay Paul, Chase Landry, and Randy Rivers Jr. have all had their share of legal troubles. But none are as serious as those faced by “Trapper Joe” Lafont.
Lafont has a history of domestic abuse that stretches back to 2012, when he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend in a hotel lobby. Lafont was arrested again on similar charges both in 2013 and 2015, though he still appeared in the 2015 season of Swamp People.
There have been no further charges laid against Lafont in the time since. Here’s hoping that means he’s changed his ways.
9 The Staged Price Negotiations (American Pickers)
American Pickers has two main components to it; finding a seller’s collection, then picking out and purchasing items from it. We already know that the finds are set up by the show’s producers, is it really a surprise that the negotiations are staged as well?
Mike, Frank, and the seller nearly always have a bit of on-screen bartering, but it’s all for show. A target price for items is established between the producers and the seller long before the pickers meet them.
The haggling simply adds a bit of drama to the interaction between those on screen. While this decision no doubt saves time for the cast and crew, it certainly takes away from the reality aspect of the show.
8 The Original Cast Was Replaced (Swamp People)
A show can undergo any number of changes throughout its time on air. In the case of reality shows, this could mean introducing new characters in place of those that the network deems are no longer drawing in viewers. Swamp People underwent a massive overhaul in its cast after the show’s sixth season, when a dozen cast members were replaced.
The History Channel provided viewers with no formal reason as to why the show was recast, leaving many scratching their heads following the season seven premiere.
The network also hasn’t been too keen on former cast members speaking out about their firing from Swamp People, as they have made informal attempts to keep them from bad-mouthing the show or network.
7 The Cast Aren't Really Off the Grid (Mountain Men)
Mountain Men took viewers into the homes of a group of people who long for a simpler time, before many of the modern comforts we enjoy today. Relying primarily on nature, the cast of the show was observed hunting, gathering, and trapping in order to stay alive.
While there are a small number of people who actively choose to live this way, many have criticized the cast of Mountain Men for being disingenuous in how they portray their own lifestyle.
Whether it be Jason Hawk’s online store or Tom and Nancy Oar’s cable TV subscription, it’s clear that many of the cast members are not as removed from society as they let on. This has led to criticism of the show’s legitimacy both by regular viewers and by those who truly embody the off-the-grid lifestyle.
6 The Encounters are Staged (Pawn Stars)
Watching Pawn Stars might give one the impression that the crew at Gold & Silver see unique, historical items every day. However, given what we already know about the show’s main and recurring cast, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that the encounters on the show are also staged by its producers.
Pawn Stars actively seek out most of the sellers on the show and arrange for both the seller and the expert’s appearance on camera. By planning for the encounters ahead of time, Rick has time to adequately research the item coming in and converse with whichever expert is set to come in.
It’s not a bad idea; planning ahead helps the show to be more informative. Unfortunately, it certainly takes away from the reality aspect of the show.
5 Frank Fritz Doesn’t Care About Picking (American Pickers)
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are presented on American Pickers as being two passionate treasure hunters who have been collecting antiques for years, long before becoming TV personalities.
While this is true for Mike, who is known to have been collecting since his early years, Frank does not have nearly the same passion, since he became a picker specifically for the show.Not nearly as impressed by the finds as his partner Mike, Frank is more of a businessman or collector than he is a devoted picker.
For what it’s worth, the imbalance between Mike and Frank doesn’t seem to have harmed either the show’s ratings or their relationship with the sellers they meet.
4 Danny Koker's Political Ideas (Counting Cars)
Although politics are not a regular part of Counting Cars, Danny Koker has not shied away from sharing his political ideas outside the shop. During an interview on The Morning Show, Danny talked about the rise of hybrid and low-emission cars, stating that they serve real no purpose.
This suggests that Koker thinks that environmentalism is a fabricated concern. He later openly supported Donald Trump during the American election, adding to his already-controversial political ideas.
The History Channel no doubt has efforts in place to ensure that Counting Cars is not used as a platform for Danny’s political ideas, but the host doesn’t appear concerned about his views being public knowledge.
3 Poor Representation of Alligator Hunting (Swamp People)
It can be severely irritating when a reality show misrepresents its subject matter. In the case of Swamp People, many have called the show out on its poor representation of alligator hunting. There is no denying that hunting these creatures is a dangerous task, but the footage of the cast wrestling live alligators has been called out as being staged with dead alligators.
The size of many of the alligators caught on Swamp People has also garnered criticism. While there are massive gators to be found throughout Louisiana, the show’s choice to only show the capturing of these monstrous creatures has led many to believe that they are an extremely common sight.
The truth is, producers have to sift through hours of footage of the hunters capturing smaller alligators before compiling what they view as the best catches.
2 Poor Purchases (Pawn Stars)
One of the most entertaining aspects of Pawn Stars is the price negotiations between the staff and customers. While the experts’ primary role is to prove or disprove the item’s significance, it’s usually up to the staff at Gold & Silver to put a price on it.
When it comes to bartering, one party typically leaves the deal better off than the other. While the shop seems to come out on top a lot of the time, they have seen a fair share of losses.
The cast of Pawn Stars has been open about the mistakes they made early in their careers, as seen with Corey buying stolen Rolex watches or the Old Man buying cubic zirconias. Despite this, some of these losses cost them upwards of $10,000, as seen with the forged Joe Jackson signature and the fake Willie Mays uniform.
1 Chumlee's Legal Troubles (Pawn Stars)
For many viewers, Chumlee is the highlight of Pawn Stars. Often the odd man out when it comes to knowledge surrounding the many historical items brought into the shop, Chumlee’s good-natured and, at times, dim-witted approach to his work made him a fan favourite. Despite his laid-back style, the Pawn Stars cast member found himself in hot water early in 2016.
Following allegations made against him in March of last year, Chumlee’s house was raided by police. Inside, they uncovered multiple types of drugs and a dozen illegal firearms. Fortunately for the History Channel star, he was only sentenced to three years probation following the raid, ensuring that his appearances on Pawn Stars would not be interrupted.
Are there any other secrets we missed out on? What's your favourite History Channel program?