Discovery Channels ‘Moonshiners’: A Season 1 Review

The Discovery Channel just wound up season one of “Moonshiners.” The show takes a look at a tradition that goes back to the founding of America: the art of brewing moonshine. Through the six-episode run, we follow moonshiner Tim Smith and his sidekick “Tickle” as they dodge the law to make their brew. We are also introduced to Jesse Tate, an agent with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. And last but not least, we follow the last days of Popcorn Sutton, easily the most enjoyable character on the show.

The show is interesting in that we see how illegal whiskey is brewed. We get to watch them make the stills, brew the mash and finally bottle up the ‘shine. The whole process, to me, was fascinating. The frequent flashbacks to Sutton were the highlight of the show. He was the quintessential hillbilly with the overalls, hat and homemade still. Popcorn committed suicide in 2009 rather than serve an 18-month sentence for, you guessed it, making moonshine.

Tim Smith, a third generation brewer, was likable and fit the bill as a backwoods moonshiner. His helper “Tickle” was a crack-up who stayed drunk for nearly the entire season. Watching them build their still was interesting and eye opening at the same time. Who knew you had to be part engineer, part chemist just to make a little whiskey?

On the law side of it, the show dragged and seemed to be trying too hard. You would see agents sneaking up on a suspected still, a dog would bark, and they would run. They caught no one actually brewing and spent most of their time riding around following “leads” and getting bupkis in return. Tate’s constant “we gonna get ‘em this time” speeches grew old and tired quickly as you knew the second a poodle farted in his direction, they were gone. If there’s gonna be a season two, let’s just follow the moonshiners and leave Jesse Tate and crew back at the station house.

Moonshiners was enjoyable but not all that believable. Throughout the season, the drama was piled on, and nothing ever happened. The law never caught any moonshiners, and Tim and Tickle made their moonshine and even a little banana brandy during the season finale in relative safety. Discovery came under fire for the shows authenticity when it was reported by Fox News that the state of Virginia claimed the entire show was a dramatization and no actual moonshine was being brewed. Discovery, as well as Tim Smith, denied the allegations, saying nothing was staged.

Many scenes felt rigged to me, lots of build up but no payoff. How much was faked or real I don’t know. I still enjoyed the show and found it informative nonetheless. Would I watch a season two? Maybe. But some changes need to be made. This style of programming is a little below what I expect from Discovery.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *