Moonshiners Serves up a Potent Shot of Redneck Reality

Enter the strange, hillbilly world of bootlegging with Discovery Channel's latest reality TV show

Credit: Discovery

Moonshiners JT, Tim and Tickle carry on the longtime tradition of making illegal booze

Moonshiners captures the art of redneck bootlegging at its finest

Judging by this season’s explosion of redneck reality shows, it seems like all those reality-show producers who were in Alaska to document the exploits of poorly run airlines, squabbling fishermen and incompetent gold-miners have headed to the Deep South.

From Hillbilly Handfishin’ to Duck Dynasty to Swamp People, TV is suddenly packed to the rafters with hillbilly reality shows, and there seems to be no end in sight. 

The latest entry into this dubious pantheon is Moonshiners, a six-episode Discovery Channel series that follows the backwoods shenanigans of a group of bootleggers who distill their own powerful “white lightning” deep in the Appalachian Mountains. 

Brewing your own booze is both highly lucrative and highly illegal, but it’s also deeply ingrained in the Appalachian culture. In rural Appalachia, not only is moonshine the beverage of choice, bootlegging has a rich history dating back to America’s early days.

Even NASCAR has its roots in bootlegging; moonshiners in the 1920s modified their cars with souped-up engines that would allow them to outrun police, and then began making a few extra bucks by charging spectators to watch them race these shine-running speed machines. 

Modern-day Bootlegging in Moonshiners

Modern-day bootlegging, however, relies more on stealth than speed. In Moonshiners’ first episode, we’re introduced to moonshine-maker Tim Smith and his crew – his son JT, Tim’s partner in crime Tickle and a grizzled, long-bearded dude named Popcorn — as they prepare for the beginning of moonshine season, when corn — the key ingredient in “mash” whiskey – is harvested. 

JT and his crew hope to walk away from moonshine season with a hundred grand in tax-free profit – if they don’t get busted, that is. That possibility becomes far more prevalent when Alcohol Beverage Control agent Jesse Tate enters the picture, setting his sights on JT.

OK, so the whole thing kind of sounds like a bad episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, but don’t underestimate the potential popularity of a show like this; I have a feeling these six episodes are only the beginning. 

A word of caution, however, to any would-be moonshiners looking to make a few bucks with a backyard still; as the disclaimer at the beginning of the show proclaims, “Do not try this at home.”

Moonshiners debuts Monday April 30th at 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm on Discovery Channel.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.