It is easy to see why viewers of Moonshiners might think the Discovery reality series is staged.
The show, which follows a group of individuals in the deep woods of Appalachia who go to extreme lengths to manufacture craft whiskey, is technically capturing an illegal activity and broadcasting it to millions of people — which has people wondering how the stars haven't been caught by police yet.
"Moonshiners may be the most fake show I've ever watched," one fan tweeted before another added, "The Discovery show Moonshiners must be staged. If these guys are scared to get arrested why would you go on a TV reality show."
So, is Moonshiners fake?
Kind of. Yes, cameras are capturing moonshiners, but it's not as illegal as you think. Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokeswoman Kathleen Shaw responded to concern from residents about the illegal production of alcohol, and reassured everyone that the state has the situation under control by hinting the show is not as authentic as it seems.
"If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action," she wrote in an email per Fox News. "
Also, it is totally possible for the cast to obtain permits to manufacture their product — like star Tim Smith did. He now sells his "Climax" brand moonshine in stores nationwide.
Then how do the moonshiners not get arrested?
If you ask Tim and Steven Ray Tickle from the series, it's all about not getting caught. "They’ve got to actually catch you doing something wrong. By the time that hits the TV…" Tickle said before Tim added, "And that’s physically catch you."
Tickle continued, "We’re not sitting where we [were] at the time. You know, they watch me on TV Tuesday nights at 9, I’m still not sitting in the same spot at 10 o’clock when that show goes off. It’s non-taxed; that’s pretty much the only reason it’s illegal."
They also explained why moonshine is illegal, and it's has nothing to do with the alcohol level. "And that’s why moonshine’s illegal, because there’s no taxes being paid on it. It’s not that it’s unregulated or that the government thinks it could possibly be an inferior product, which if you know what you're doing making moonshine, that’s absolutely what you don’t want to put out there," Tickle explained. "Your product, you can’t put a label on it if you’re making it out in the woods. Your product has to sell itself. If you've got a bad product, nobody will ever buy shine from you again."
In a separate interview with the network, Tim denied allegations that the show puts the cast in danger. "The big protection you have is [the show is] past tense," he said. "You got to be arrested at the time you are committing the crime. I think the show can be reason for investigation... but until you get to the point to where you can actually touch something and grab something and taste something and feel something and smell something, you don't have anything."
Josh Owens also agrees with his co-stars, telling Motorcycle USA, "I'm not in jail because it's not evidence, for one, that I'm on TV making moonshine. And for two, I could be doing anything, it could be just water... [The cops] got a lot bigger fish to fry than somebody just making a little bit of something to sip on when alcohol's in every store and every bar in the countryside."
Why was Tickle arrested?
This does not mean there are no moonshiners with a criminal record on the show. In 2016, Tickle was sentenced to a three-year suspended penitentiary sentence for possession of a sawed-off shotgun.
"I am a law-abiding citizen. That gun is something that a buddy of mine gave me many years ago," Tickle said at the time. "My daughter wants to stay with me, but if I'm in jail, I can't provide for her."
In exchange for the suspended sentence, Tickle was ordered to complete 18 months probation, pay court costs, and be on good behavior for five years.
Watch Moonshiners "evade" the law on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Discovery.