After ten years, Discovery Channel is ending American Chopper.
The Teutuls are going to build their final bikes on the network next month. One of Discovery’s most popular programs, American Chopper helped pioneer the “docusoap” reality genre and inspired a surge of gear-head shows. Chopper’s run will conclude with the previously announced four-way bike build-off special titled The Revenge airing live from Las Vegas on Dec. 11.
“After 10 years and 233 episodes of incredible, riveting reality television, American Chopper will be ending its run,” says Eileen O’Neill, group president, Discovery and TLC Networks. “This series was one of the very first family-based reality programs on television. Special thanks to Pilgrim Studios for over a decade of great producing. The Teutuls have given us really innovative bike builds and real drama since 2002. We wish both Orange County Choppers and Paul Junior Designs the best.”
The series had a simple format – a father and son building custom motorcycles amid frequent infighting. Yet nothing about the show’s colorful history has been straight forward. American Chopper has changed networks, switched names and was previously cancelled, only to rise again.
“I have mixed emotions,” executive producer Craig Piligian tells EW.com. “It’s had a great run. We had a lot of ups and downs. There’s been so much that’s happened to this family over the last 10 years. We’ve seen them grow to a huge motorcycle shop. We’ve seen them fight bitterly. We’ve seen them sue each other. And recently we’ve seen them come together to open up a new business. I think the show has come full circle.”
American Chopper premiered as a Discovery Channel special in 2002, then launched as a regular series a few months later. In 2008, Discovery moved the show to its sister channel TLC. A couple years passed, then behind-the-scenes warring between Senior and Junior prompted TLC to outright cancel the show. Parties soon made up and in 2010 the company re-ordered the program as American Chopper: Junior vs. Senior. The series later reverted to its original title and switched back to Discovery.
“This was the first family docusoap,” Piligian says. “They put on display, for all to see, what really happens in a tight family business, warts and all. I’m really proud they were so open and honest.”
Paul Senior and Junior’s spirited attitudes helped make the show engaging for fans, but could also make things difficult behind the scenes. At one point when shooting the current final season, Piligian fired Junior and kicked him off the set. “It’s a very tumultuous relationship, not only between the father and son, but between us as well,” Piligian says. “Junior and I would have it out, and at one point awhile back, I said, ‘We’re done with you.’” The two reconciled and Junior returned to work shortly thereafter.
Given the show’s on-again, off-again history, one has to wonder: Is this really the end? Could American Chopper rise again in a year or two?
“American Chopper was cancelled before and we came back even stronger,” Piligian says. “It’s been a resilient, powerful show. Right now they’re telling me it’s cancelled. I can only comment: ‘Who knows what the future holds.’”
Here’s a preview of Monday’s episode, below. The live bike-building special includes Paul Teutul Senior and Junior will face-off against Outlaw Garage star Jesse James and Discovery Channel’s Fast ‘N Loud stars Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman in a competition event. More details on that here.