Moonshiners is a Discovery Channel docudrama. Theoretically, a docudrama is programming that can include dramatic reenactments of real events. In practice, well, suffice to say that Moonshiners puts much more emphasis on the “drama” rather than the “documentary” part of the name. Regardless, Moonshiners is focused on the production of illegal moonshine, which is a subject that has proven to be popular enough to sustain it for eight seasons and counting. Of course, the docudrama has seen its fair share of changes over time, meaning that there are some notable differences between the first season and its much more recent successors.
How Has the Show Moonshiners Changed Since Its First Season?
For starters, the cast has seen some significant changes. In the first season, there were four cast members, who were Tim, Tickle, Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, and Jesse. Out of the four, Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton hasn’t appeared in the show beyond the first season, which makes sense because Sutton had already passed away by the time that the show was being made. Likewise, Jesse hasn’t appeared either, which is interesting because his role wasn’t as one of the titular moonshiners but rather as a law enforcement agent. In contrast, both Tim and Tickle are still appearing on the show, though they have been joined by a huge number of new cast members in the time since. Most of these new cast members joined up with the start of the second season, but there has been a slow trickle of new cast members to counterbalance those who leave ever since then. On the whole, the change in cast members make it clear that the people behind Moonshiners made some quick adjustments to their plans for the show following the success of the first season, which seems to have paid off for them if the length of its run is any indication.
Besides this, it is interesting to note that Tickle received his own spinoff in 2013. In short, the spinoff saw him starting up a business for the purpose of selling a stash of moonshine that he uncovered in the backwoods of Virginia, which resulted in him finding out that operating a business is much more challenging than what he had expected. However, it is clear that the spinoff wasn’t popular enough to sustain, seeing as how it started up in August of 2013 and came to a close in October of 2013.
As for the reality of Moonshiners, well, an argument can be made that it has become worse in this regard since the first season. This is because the segments featuring Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton in the first season came from an actual documentary called This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make, which told the story of someone who was actually a moonshiner as well as a bootlegger. For proof, look no further than the fact that Sutton winded up committing suicide in March of 2009 via carbon monoxide poisoning, which is believed to have been motivated by his desire to live the way that he wanted rather than go to jail for both moonshining and illegally possessing a firearm. As a result, while much of the first season of Moonshiners was entertaining fluff, there were some segments that showcased the real thing.
In contrast, the subsequent seasons have been less realistic in that regard. Simply put, while Moonshiners makes a lot of effort to make it seem like its cast members are actual moonshiners who are at-risk of being caught by the authorities at any moment because of their breaking of the law, the chances of that being the case are rather low. Local authorities for the region where the show is filmed have literally stated that no criminal acts have been committed on the show, though they have also stated that the people behind the show refused their request to add a disclaimer that their content has been dramatized. Furthermore, while filming an illegal activity isn’t considered to be illegal, the same can’t be said for encouraging someone to commit an illegal activity so that it can be filmed, which is very relevant in the case of Moonshiners because the cast members are getting paid. As a result, if the people behind Moonshiners are truthful about the illegality of what they show, chances are good that they couldn’t even get started on filming because insurance companies would never cover such a blatantly risky client.