Reasons why Mountain Men is totally fake

American audiences can't get enough of reality TV shows featuring bearded men roughing it in the wilderness. Case in point, History Channel's Mountain Men series. The show sells itself in a vein typical of wilderness-based reality TV programs: people who want nothing to do with 21st century technology and conveniences, and instead prefer to survive 'off-the-grid' among wild animals while enduring harsh weather conditions.

Although the concept may feel refreshing when paired against shows like the high-maintenance Keeping Up with the Kardashians, viewers might be surprised to know that Mountain Men isn't exactly what it seems. Here are five reasons to question everything you know about this popular show.

Producers tend to fake the danger

What's a wilderness-based reality TV show without a bit of danger and suspense? Pretty boring as far as Mountain Men producers are concerned. The 'constant danger' angle is a common trope among these type of shows, and often used to get viewers emotionally invested in the lifestyle and risks taken on by the cast. The problem is that even cast members are willing to acknowledge show runners ask them to exaggerate just how difficult their off-the-grid lifestyle really is.

For instance, the Billings Gazette quoted Mountain Men star Tom Oar as saying of the series, "They always have to make it seem more dangerous. I'm too boring otherwise." A part of making his life seem more dangerous than it is, apparently included editing in shots of bears. According to Oar, the animals never seem to be around when the camera crew is filming on his property — which is why they go elsewhere to film the animals.

Fellow Mountain Men star Eustace Conway made a similar confession in his biography, The Last American Man, written by Elizabeth Gilbert (via The Associated Press). During the writing process, he said to Gilbert, "When I go out in public, I deliberately try to present myself as this wild guy who just came down off the mountain, and I'm aware that it's largely an act."

They're not as 'off-the-grid' as you think

Forget the obvious problem of being a true isolationist when you have a camera crew following you everywhere. When speaking with the Billings Gazette, Tom Oar admitted to regularly watching Mountain Men on TV. Oar said he and his wife, Nancy, "sit down on Sunday night and watch [Mountain Men]." The couple live in Yaak, Montana. Although the area has zero cell phone service and limited internet, it's not so isolated that it prevents them from enjoying the modern convenience of television.

The cast isn't as poor as the History Channel claims

Even before being approached to appear on Mountain Men, cast member Eustace Conway established a series of programs at his Turtle Island Preserve in Boone, North Carolina. There, Conway teaches visitors everything from hog killing to how to be your very own blacksmith. You know, the kinds of things superfans of wilderness reality TV shows can't wait to learn so they can feel as 'authentic' as the survivalists featured on TV. To get a better idea, check out the fan video above about Conway and his "education center and natural retreat."

The thing is, the programs Conway puts together for visitors are anything but cheap — the blacksmith workshop starts at $300 per person. Because of the popularity of Mountain Men, Conway is in an ever better position to use his fame to convince starry-eyed fans to try out a few of his workshops. If only one person took up the offer for everything available, he'd make hundreds of dollars. But as the grinning tourists in photographs demonstrate, he's likely made far more than that.

That's why it's interesting that the History Channel seems invested in portraying the exact opposite. His official Mountain Men bio even mentions Eustace Conway relying on a grassroots lumber operation to "secure his financial future." Nothing at all is said about the dozens of tourists handing over hundreds of dollars to be instructed on the fine art of animal hide tanning.

As for other cast members, thanks to agreeing to be filmed for the show, Reality TV Net Worth estimates that they're each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, with cast member Kyle Bell's personal worth making him an actual millionaire. So much for roughing it.

Conway's 'government woes' played up while a major lawsuit was ignored

The "simple man versus government" angle has served the Eustace Conway storyline well. It all started in Season 1 of Mountain Men, during the show's second episode. Conway opened an envelope that revealed "the government" intended to take his land. In actuality, it wasn't "the man" coming after Conway, but a 28-year-old woman named Kimberly Baker.

In 2005, Baker visited Conway's Turtle Island retreat as part of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, according to The Associated Press. During a slingshot demonstration, Baker was struck with a stray rock, leading to permanent blindness in her right eye. She filed a lawsuit, and Conway and his employees settled, with the Mountain Men star agreeing to a mediated settlement of $75,000. It turns out the money was meant to come by way of mortgaging a portion of his Turtle Island property.

When the victim failed to receive payment, she took Conway to court — and he finally paid up in April 2012. Curiously enough, Mountain Men did film episodes with Conway around that same period of time. However, the narrative was remarkably different, with the show setting Conway up as the victim, standing up to encroaching government officials and overdue taxes.

When Conway was asked about the lawsuit, he didn't give much of an answer, stating that his exclusive contract with the History channel prevents him from commenting "about the correctness of" those events.

'Real' off-the-grid survivalists don't like the show

One of the best indications of whether or not a reality TV show is real or fake is how individuals with similar lifestyles feel about it. Take the Discovery Channel series Alaskan Bush People. You may be more likely to find Alaskans routinely mocking the show than praising its authenticity. The same is true of History Channel's Mountain Men. A discussion about the show on the Off-Grid website mentioned Eustace Conway routinely driving to town and attempting to pass off a Lyman rifle as a weapon he made himself.

Of course, one has to take the criticism with a grain of salt, since many of the critics, despite claiming to be off-the-grid"' enthusiasts, somehow have access to the internet. Perhaps that hypocrisy goes both ways?