First aired in 2011 on the Discovery Channel, the crime reality TV series “Moonshiners” by Magilla Entertainment, is a docudrama aimed at depicting the trials and tribulations in the life of an illegal moonshiner in the Appalachian Mountains, across the states of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina USA. A large part of its attraction to the audience comes from the various methods of evading the law being shown consistently throughout, but the cast doesn’t really have to do that.

The truth is that a TV series of this magnitude couldn’t exist if it were truly based on televising crimes and law enforcement evasion. That said, Magilla Entertainment doesn’t really have the best of reputations as a production house to begin with, as numerous people and websites have accused them of lying to the audience in their many so-called reality TV shows.

The premise behind the supposition that the so-called criminals can’t be caught so easily is because the show isn’t filmed in real time, with its cast moving all around the mountains after every distilling. That said, with a look at the fact that most of the individuals featured in the show are actually licensed distillers, listening to the reasoning for why they aren’t already behind bars becomes a comical endeavor.

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The official investigation

Fox News took a deeper look into the issue, actually going out of their way to contact the relevant individuals who could shed light on the matter. The most relevant branch of the government to inquire with regards to the issue is located in Virginia – the state in which a lot of the alleged illegal distilling takes place.

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is an agency in the Commonwealth of Virginia, responsible for regulating and controlling the sale, possession and transportation of alcoholic beverages.

The ABC has exclusive authority to sell distilled spirits directly to consumers, with prices that are consistently below those of private retailers and retail package stores. It also regulates the manufacture, importation, transportation and storage of alcoholic beverages within Virginia. Ultimately, it’s also one of the primary sources for research data on alcohol consumption patterns in the state.

Fox News emailed the office in December 2011, and eventually contacted with their spokesperson Kathleen Shaw. At that point, many people in the US and around the world had been wondering for months why nothing is being done about obviously criminal actions airing on television, with all of the faces of the perpetrators and heaps of their private information on full display.

The news agency wondered the same, to which Kathleen replied ‘If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action.’ She explained that the show is a complete dramatization, with its main selling point being that something actually illegal is taking place, when it’s all in fact sanctioned and approved by the state – it simply makes for better TV.

Virginia ABC Enforcement Bureau's Special Agents Lauren Blanks and Charles Bates set up an informational booth at the…

Posted by Virginia ABC on Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shaw explained that the department had asked Magilla Entertainment to add a disclaimer to the series that explains the true nature of its content, ‘but the request was overlooked.’ The only thing similar to a disclaimer up to that point was that ‘Viewers will witness practices rarely, if ever, seen on television, including the sacred rite of passage for a moonshiner – firing up the still for the first time.’

Of course, it makes sense for Magilla Entertainment to simply pretend that they haven’t noticed the department’s concern and the media’s whistleblowing, as that would harm the premise of the show by removing its main target. Some have argued that “Moonshiners” would still have a significant viewership, even with the truth on full display, but it looks like the producers simply aren’t willing to take the risk.

How ABC’s special agent got tricked

The producers of “Moonshiners” would never have been able to keep the mask of crime going for so long without significant effort to make the series appear as a depiction of illegal practices. This ranges from the cast simply not having a friendly attitude towards law enforcement, to showing de-facto ways of escaping a police chase, with the advice in between relating to all sorts of ways to cover up anything related to moonshine production.

One of the most credible pieces of this fabricated evidence was the presence of an actual ABC agent in the series, who appeared only in the first season, and for all the wrong reasons. The fact of the matter is that not even a single policeman would care to visit the filming area, much less a special agent of an important government institution.

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control employs a team of dedicated special agents to investigate crimes involving the production, transport, sale and use of alcoholic beverages within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

These special agents have extensive experience in criminal investigations and are responsible for enforcing state laws on alcohol-related offenses. They work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with ABC regulations. Special Agents also conduct investigations regarding underage drinking, and provide assistance to local jurisdictions in combating alcohol-related crime issues.

The name of ABC’s special agent who appeared in “Moonshiners” is Jesse Tate. He’s been with the bureau since 2009, and his primary duties include investigating alleged violations of ABC regulations related to operation of alcoholic beverage establishments. He has extensive experience in criminal investigations, such as sales involving minors or illegal distribution networks.

In the show, viewers were led to believe that he works undercover and collaborates with local law enforcement officers to track down illegal moonshining operations in rural areas of Virginia, and that he interviews participants for both cases as well as informational purposes about distillation techniques, past industry practices, and legal issues pertaining to alcoholic beverages in the state.

While Jesse’s job description is factual, the reason for his showing up in the show is completely fabricated. ABC did indeed deploy him into the field, but only for what they thought was a non-dramatized documentary relating to Virginia’s turbulent past in the fight against unsanctioned moonshine production.

What ABC didn’t know, however, was that Magilla Entertainment would use Tate’s image on their lens to tell a very different story, one that would greatly benefit them and lend massive credence to the show’s premise, using a manipulative combo of narration, editing, directing and overall storytelling.

As a result, it appeared as though Jesse was on the trail of supposed criminals, whose days in the business were numbered. This tension provided a sense of uncertainty, as to whether any of the cast members would be out of prison for much longer, putting the viewers at the edge of their seats whenever a new episode would air.

There’s thus an obvious reason why Jesse hasn’t been seen since season one, as ABC caught wind of the scam at some point, ordering their agent to immediately cease all contact with the production crew, as a potential lawsuit started brewing.

In the aforementioned article, the department’s statement said ‘Virginia ABC agreed to participate in an informative piece that documents the history of moonshine and moonshine investigations in Virginia.’

With their real participation reason out of the way, they further elaborated that ‘Virginia ABC did not participate nor was aware of the false depiction of moonshine manufacturing, distribution and/or transportation in the filming, and would not have participated in the `documentary’ had it known of this portrayal.’

Still, even with ABC’s name fully cleared, the show’s producers continued to purport that real crime was taking place in front of the camera on a daily basis, and since the truth didn’t get much coverage, most fans never even noticed. As a result, “Moonshiners” is still popular with worldwide audiences in 2022.

Not only that, but it’s also expanded over the years, first by the producers purchasing a series about Steven Ray Tickle in 2013, entitling it simply “Tickle.” In March 2019 Magilla Entertainment released a series about Tim Smith helping the Missouri Ridge Distillery stay afloat, entitled “Moonshiners: Whiskey Business.” As if that weren’t enough, their latest spinoff, “Moonshiners: Master Distiller” debuted on Discovery Channel on 3 March 2020.

Other fake aspects of “Moonshiners”

Aside from almost everything ever depicted in the series being completely in accordance with state law, there are a number of other factors that stick out like a sore thumb upon closer inspection of what all the show really claims to be, especially with the added weight of Magilla Entertainment having the reputation that they do.

For example, many viewers who know the history of the studio behind “Moonshiners” find it hard to take their content seriously, as they’ve previously made and continue to create shows with laughable repute, such as “King of Thrones” – a series about bathroom remodeling with a focus on literal toilets.

Grunge.com had few words of praise to say about this production house, explaining they fake content for viewership all the time. One such example is when a certain Robin Corbell, an interior decorator featured in one of the episodes of “Lakefront Bargain Hunt”, has three houses to pick from, one of which will be the winning home given as the prize.

It later turned out that the exact house he chose had been purchased by Robin himself two years prior to the filming of the series, but the truth, as in the example of “Moonshiners,” came too late and with too little attention for the viewers to obtain the information, or even care about it in the first place, allowing Magilla’s ‘reality TV’ series to perform well, regardless of blatant fraud.

Another well-known instance of the studio not being truthful to the audience took place in “Beachfront Bargain Hunt,” when a statement by a fan named Laura came to light, revealing that she and her husband were contacted promptly after purchasing a house in a regular filming area of the show, with Magilla producers trying to interest them in appearing in the show in order to ‘win’ the home they already owned.

On top of that, it’s a normal part of the show’s production process to carry around all sorts of decorations and furniture, which would be temporarily placed in the so-called winning homes, most of which already have owners who would win them. Right after the filming at the location is done, the crew would remove all of the decorations that made the house look attractive in the first place, and take it to the next one.

There’s also the fact that whichever studio produced “Moonshiners” with the criminal premise being completely real, would have most of its decision makers either paying massive fees or behind bars. In an alternate universe where all moonshine production in the show is completely illegal, Magilla Entertainment could simply go out and state that it’s not a violation of the law to not stop an ongoing crime, but that wouldn’t really hold up in court.

If all of the featured moonshiners were simply doing what they do without any regard for Magilla’s production crew, committing crime all day long and being innocuously filmed doing so, the studio could make the case that they were only documenting reality as it happened.

However, this isn’t the case, as the cast members make significant earnings from each episode. With that being true, if the actions depicted in “Moonshiners” are actual crimes, Magilla Entertainment employees would be liable to charges relating to financing criminal behavior and even promoting it on television, which is a serious offense.

There’s also the fact that moonshine can be rather harmful to anyone who drinks it, especially when an unlicensed individual is the one who distilled it. In that case, the production house would also be at fault for any health issue that resulted from their show. Since none of these lawsuits are happening, truth remains plain to see for everyone who cares to look.

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