Discovery Channel's Street Outlaws follows the Oklahoma City street racing scene where "you're nothing if you're not on "The List." What's "The List," you ask?
It's a running tally of the 10 best street racers in OKC, manned by none other than Street Outlaw's head honcho, Justin "Big Chief" Shearer. As Discovery Channel explains, "You've got to challenge someone else who's ranked — and win," in order to move up a spot.
Drivers from all over the country, from Texas to Kansas City to California, head over to Oklahoma to battle it out for the top spots. The competition is "fierce, fast and merciless," but some viewers seem to think that the reason the show is so intense is that it isn't actually real.
So, is Street Outlaws fake? Keep reading to find out!
Is 'Street Outlaws' fake?
A lot of the talk around Street Outlaws, now in its 14th season, surrounds the fact that the street racing they do on the show purports to be illegal. Like, just look at the title of the show! And while the series began with that concept when it first started airing in 2013, they've now totally buckled up to make this Discovery Channel show as above-board as possible.
"The show itself wasn't actually illegal," Screen Rant explains, "Every race was cleared and permitted by the city the crew happened to be visiting that episode." So while it might appear like the racers are engaging in illicit activities, "the crew would put in for a permit, which would be either denied or approved by local officials," the source explains.
In fact, some races have to be relocated if a permit is denied, according to Hot Cars.
One would think that the show flirts with police intervention on a regular basis, but it turns out that the opposite is true. Hot Cars continues by stating that local police are entirely in on the races, cordoning off race sites to keep the roads clear and safe from any traffic.
So yeah, it's really zero percent illegal, what they're doing on Street Outlaws.
That isn't to say that illegal street racing doesn't exist. It very much does, and some of the drivers on Street Outlaws participate in these races. Especially since what we see on the show is super regulated, safe, and legal, many members of the racing crew still go back to their illegal local races for the thrill of it — those races are just not what we see on the show.
The best way we can sum up the reality of Street Outlaws is to say that the show is indeed based on the illegal races that once took place on the streets of Oklahoma City, where this Top 10 list was born. But when Discovery Channel jumped on board, they had to make sure they could get decent production value without actually breaking any laws.
In other words, Discovery offered Big Chief and his friends money to bring friends out and race on a closed road that they'd produce and make safe. As a fan explains on Reddit, "You can see in the first couple of seasons these guys had more realistic cars and were more concerned with legal issues and paying their bills while upgrading their cars."
However, as the show climbed up the ratings and became more popular, "the guys who raced on the tracks decided they would challenge the TV guys, since there wasn't danger of being arrested and losing their licenses." Now, with sponsors and appearance deals given their rise to fame, "it was a natural transition for these guys to upgrade to track type race cars themselves."
Another fan chimed in to say that the show is "99 percent real." "The 1 percent is the fact that the road is rented out by Discovery/Pilgrim Studios and blocked off by the cops," they add.
So Street Outlaws is not exactly fake by any means, it's just produced and regulated so that filming can remain legit while still trying to keep the illusions up for audiences.
Those illusions aren't just for the cars either, but also for the people driving them. Hot Cars reports that while the big personalities like Big Chief and Daddy Dave "insert their real personas into things," the reality show is known for manipulating a lot of the on-screen drama. While it's difficult to gauge what's real and what's scripted during an episode, it's reasonable to assume that there's a healthy balance of both.
Street Outlaws doesn't necessarily live up to its name in terms of legality, but it's still made its mark as a unique reality racing show.
New episodes of Street Outlaws air Mondays at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.