Remember back when The Discovery Channel was actually about science stuff? You know, like birds, bees, archaeology, plants, and outer space? We really don’t either. Sure, they squeeze that stuff in there outside of prime time viewing, but the biggest series on the network these days are almost all in the reality show realm.
The more viewers look into that programming, the less “real” they seem, which is a total 180-degree flip for a channel whose original mission statement was all about science stuff, right? Still, audiences eat up the drama on shows like The Deadliest Catch and American Chopper. To be fair, a lot of these shows do have at least a peripheral focus on scientific matters. After all, building ridiculously fast cars and survivalist techniques are based in some academic disciplines.
Let’s face it – we’re really tuning in for the drama. Unfortunately, the image these shows keep up to maintain that drama can sometimes fall short. As the following pictures will prove, all is not what it may seem on Discovery.
Here are 15 Behind-The-Scenes Photos That Change Discovery Shows.
15. MythBusters Cannonball Fail
Sometimes it might seem that MythBusters is really about sculpted facial hair, judging by the presenting duo of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman’s grooming skills. Of course, the show’s real target is in testing whether any number of urban legends and movie moments could be for real.
The hosts have a background in special effects and are well rounded in their ability to scientifically reproduce the plausibility of everything from shooting fish in a barrel to seeing if diamonds can be made in a microwave. Their brand is built around their exactitude as skilled laboratory experimenters. But what happens when they fail?
As this picture shows, such failures can be extremely dangerous. Testing the force of cannonball fire, one of the projectiles they fired veered off course and smashed into a house, leaving sizable damage. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Except for Adam and Jamie’s reputations, that is.
14. Dirty Jobs Makeup Moment
It’s pretty amazing that Discovery’s hugely popular Dirty Jobs has had such a huge following. After all, this is a show all about forcing TV audiences to look at some of the grossest things in the world. Host Mike Rowe has climbed into everything from open sewers to slaughterhouses in his never-ending quest to expose viewers to the most disgusting occupations human beings can engage in. Rowe’s carefully-crafted image as a rough and ready dude who isn’t afraid to get down in the muck helps sell the show.
Behind the scenes, however, he really is just another reality TV star. That includes sitting in a makeup chair getting all gussied up, as this picture reveals. It’s not that we should be shocked by his beauty treatments for the camera. That’s how showbiz works! But Mike, we thought that maybe, just maybe, you were too dirty for that.
13. American Chopper, Kitchen Edition
A lot of the shows on Discovery rely on men being manly men doing manly things. And what could be more of a bro thing to do than work at a motorcycle repair shop? The stars of American Chopper, Paul Teutul and his son Paul Jr. very much fit that bill.
Big and brawny, loaded with tattoos, and sporting rambunctious facial hair, these are guys you don’t want to start a bar fight with. When the fellas fall into conflict in the shop and the drama gets turned to high, the results can be intimidating and even terrifying.
Then there’s Paul’s youngest son Mikey. He may have done good work around the shop, but as this picture shows, he’s really changed gears. These days, he’s a kitchen guy selling his own tomato sauce. Which is totally cool, but not in line with the grease monkey bruiser image American Chopper is so famous for.
12. Deadliest Catch, Camera Edition
Nobody will ever take away the fact that the fishermen on The Deadliest Catch do indeed work in extremely hazardous conditions. Crab fishing in the tumultuous Alaskan waters takes guts and can cost lives. It’s pretty amazing that this Discovery show can capture the danger and drama of a raging sea tossing around a tiny vessel full of guys trying to score big bucks in the seafood industry. The thing is – somebody has to film this show.
While the stars of the series obviously face bodily harm, it’s easy to forget there’s a film crew right there with them in those exact same scary conditions. This picture captures it perfectly: look at the cameraman. This guy does not look safe. In fact, he looks like he’s barely hanging on for his life. It kind of calls into question who’s handling the deadliest work on the boat.
11. Shark Week Fakery
As already mentioned, Discovery has kind of turned its back on science in many ways. It gets worse when the network starts playing around with straight-up fake science. For example, there was a controversial “fake documentary” on mermaids. Then, during that most popular calendar item the channel has, it went a bit too far.
Shark Week comes but once a year, but it gets tough to outdo previous years when we’ve already seen shark attacks, flying great whites, and dangerous feeding frenzies. So, they cooked up more fakery with a show about the Megalodon, an extinct monster shark that was big enough to swallow people whole. This show gave off the impression these things might still be around, which they haven’t been for millions of years. This picture is so fake, the outcry against it got Discovery to pull the show before it aired.
10. The Truth About Moonshiners
Let’s get this out of the way right now – the term “moonshine” literally means a liquor which is illegal to make and sell. The mythology of back woods stills making outlaw booze while running around local sheriffs is the stuff of legends.
It’s understandable that Discovery jumped at the chance to depict this underground culture on the hit show Moonshiners. The setup is perfect: stereotypical hillbilly characters hiding out in the middle of nowhere hoping that the cops won’t get wise to them. As if the police couldn’t find folks being filmed on TV by a major network. So, yeah, these people aren’t moonshiners at all. In fact, here’s an image which drives it home.
9. Afraid, but not Alone
The whole idea of Discovery’s survivalist saga Naked and Afraid is that the people left out there well and truly exposed to nature. The entire premise of the show is supposed to depict people left to their wits and knowhow in order to live through the harsh environments which they are left to. That whole image has unraveled as reports of crew interventions have emerged.
Everything from doctor tents to secret placement of food items have been alleged.
This picture kind of spells it out: these folks might be afraid, but they’re not alone. Where other survival shows happen with the stars self-filming, these guys really do have a whole crew with them at all times. It must be tough to be afraid when you’ve got a team watching your back, right?
8. Amish Mafia Masquerade
Ever since the classic ’80s Harrison Ford movie Witness, the way of life of the Amish people has captured the imagination of America. Living simply by the sweat of their own brows, turning their backs on the world of modernity, this group of religious farmers essentially live in the past. Their lifestyle refuses conveniences like electricity and plumbing.
Discovery’s Amish Mafia takes things to another level and portrays this culture as organized against the outside world in an almost criminal way – an exaggeration to be sure. Things get really exaggerated when we take a look at Esther, one of the show’s characters. This side-by-side comparison shows her in her Amish garb, and as her true “modern” self. As seen, she’s not really anything more than an average gal who throws on a costume for TV. Bubble burst.
7. Man vs. Wild vs. Bear Suit
Here’s another Discovery Channel survivalist show that’s a lot faker than “reality TV” would have one believe. Man vs. Wild stars Bear Grylls, who goes out on his own to take on the elements and the deadly creatures who exist out there, risking life and limb. Braving rugged terrain, harsh weather and even bears – except when the bears aren’t really bears.
As can be seen in this behind-the-scenes image, the show may once have tried to pawn off a guy in an obviously shoddy bear costume as the real article. Explained away as a “prank” by the crew, an episode of the show still featured an ominous “dark figure” which was supposed to be a threatening animal. So maybe it’s more like Man vs. Mild!
6. Street Outlaws Driving Legal
It’s an image of lawlessness as old as the automobile itself. Drag racing has been depicted in movies and TV for decades now. Bad boys prepping at red lights for a dangerous speed challenge down populated roads. Such depictions conjure images of haphazard gangs mowing down pedestrians a la Death Race.
Discovery’s version is Street Outlaws, where these supposedly criminal drivers build crazy cars and take each other on with this reckless sport. But in truth, these guys will never be stopped by the cops because everything they do is in the open, supported by emergency teams and in full view of the public.
As this picture shows, there’s a lot of crew, spectators, and even nearby homes at these events. There’s no way the law would let these races happen without permitting and safety protocols. That’s not really very outlaw.
5. Alaskan Bush People (Who Live in LA)
Few natural environments can seem as foreboding as the Alaskan wilds. It’s cold, it’s vast, and it’s loaded with danger. In other words, it’s a perfect setting to depict the struggles of the Brown family, the stars of Alaskan Bush People on the Discovery Channel.
Portrayed as rugged pioneers taming a harsh land in places where homesteaders can still establish a community, the Browns have to build homes and subsist of whatever the local area will provide. However, the Browns also have a luxury mansion in Los Angeles.
As can be seen in this image, warm sunshine and poolside frolicking isn’t exactly what one might expect from these Arctic Circle dwellers. It just goes to show, fame and fortune really can change a family.
4. Planet Earth
Back to basics for Discovery. Along with Shark Week, Planet Earth is one of the largest remaining commitments the network still dedicates to science-based programming. The series is truly spectacular, bringing unforgettable imagery from around the world of wild animals in the sea, on land and in the air, from all corners of the globe.
After all the reality TV drama, it is truly refreshing to have Discovery return to its roots. Then there’s this behind-the-scenes shot of a critter getting way too comfortable with one of their photographers. Whether this is staged or not, it sure looks staged. And that kind of ruins that whole “filming in the wild” thing.
3. Fast N’ Loud N’ Fake?
Car fanatics the world over just love Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Channel. These car restorers take broken down beaters and rejuvenate them to their former glory.
Even for folks who aren’t automobile enthusiasts, watching Richard Rawlings and the gang at Gas Monkey Garage transforming rust-buckets into four-wheeled demons can be highly entertaining. At least in one case, they stretched the truth behind one of their finds.
Supposedly unearthing some long-lost Firebird prototypes, as seen in this image, Rawlings got called out by hotrod experts. Rather than being the “holy grail” the show claimed they were, these were just the first two cars off the line – and not the factory prototype.
2. Storm Chasers Tragedy
This entry is a lot more somber than others on this list. The Discovery show Storm Chasers is about a bunch of meteorologists and engineers who have built special cars that can withstand tornado-spawned winds. This lets them get close to those monster twisters for better study. It’s a dangerous thing to do, and has generated some very exciting television, which has a lot more to do with science than a lot of the other shows discussed here.
It also projected a sort of invincibility on the part of the chasers, who tempted fate by edging right up to one of nature’s most destructive forces. Unfortunately, in the spring of 2013, chasers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young lost their lives to a tornado while doing what they did best. This image of a memorial made for them at the crash site is a sobering reminder that reality can hit hard, even on TV.
1. Scarier Than River Monsters
The main conceit of River Monsters on the Discovery Channel is that beneath the waterways we swim and raft in, lurk giant scary beasties. To be fair, host and “extreme angler” Jeremy Wade has pulled many a huge fish out of depths for the cameras. While many of these fish might look creepy and scary, the truth is that for the most part, catfish the size of a car aren’t going to attack people. Really, they’re just big fish for the big fish story.
Far more likely than being eaten by a guppy on steroids is getting tossed into the drink by dangerous waters. During shooting of the show one day, the crew spotted and then saved a boater whose vessel had capsized, leaving him naked and stranded on a remote island. Yes, drowning and starving are way more dangerous than pretty much any fish Jeremy might hook and this picture proves it!
What’s your favorite Discovery Channel show? Let us know in the comments!