'Gun Country' second gun-themed program suspended by Discovery; cable genre under fire after Sandy Hook shooting

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Published December 20, 2012

| FoxNews.com

The Discovery Channel’s special “Gun Country,” hosted by rocker Ted Nugent, will not be returning to the network, a rep for the cable channel confirmed to FOX411.

Nugent did not repsond to a request for comment, but he had said on a radio program in October that Discovery wanted to air his show “as a regular feature. We expect that there will be at least a dozen shows a year.”

FOX411 was the first to report on that Discovery’s popular show “American Guns” had been canceled after two successful seasons following the tragic shooting in Newtown Conn., in which 26 people, including 20 school children, were massacred by a lone gunman using his mother’s legally purchased firearms.

The show later said in a statement: “Discovery Channel chose not to renew the series and has no plans to air repeats of the show,” without providing a reason why.

Discovery’s decision to stop airing these two programs followed intense criticism on social media.

“What an irony. I am following the news regarding the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, and I am listening to the speech of a heart-broken father of one of the young victims… At the same time, on Discovery Channel I’m seeing that absolutely disgusting freak show of yours of ‘Sons of Guns’ at the Discovery Channel, which is about sick people glorifying the use of assault guns,” a man who called himself a father of three wrote on the show’s Facebook page this weekend. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. If Discovery Channel has any moral conscience left, it should ban that show right away forever. I will never watch Discovery again until that show is pulled.”

Another viewer took to Twitter to note that the “rubbish” gun reality shows don’t “seem quite so appealing now,” while another questioned: “Is it really necessary to have shows such as American Guns and Sons of Guns on the Discovery Channel? Tell them we want them off the air.”

Reality shows revolving around guns, hunting and shooting have become staples on cable TV. From Discovery’s “Sons of Guns” to TruTV’s “Combat Pawn” to History Channel’s “Top Shot” to the dozens of series and specials on the Outdoor Channel, the reality genre has proved popular and profitable.

Could a fate similar to “American Guns” and “Gun Country” await other firearm-centric shows on Discovery and other cable networks?

The History Channel, Outdoor Channel and TruTV did not respond to requests for comment as to whether any of their gun-themed shows would be postponed, modified, feature new PSA’s, canceled, or return as planned.

So far there has been no official announcement about whether a fourth season of “Sons of Guns” will be ordered. Colby Donaldson, the host of “Top Shot” on History Channel, tweeted recently that a fifth season has completed production for an air date to be determined. TruTV has ordered seven episodes for a new season of “Combat Pawn,” although no debut date for that show has been released either.

Reality star Jesse Csincsak, who made a guest appearance last season on “American Guns” alongside his wife Ann, expressed dismay that the show would not be returning, but was not surprised by the reactions such programs are now being subjected too.

“Americans always look for something to blame things on, so since guns have been involved in a lot of crimes lately – hey, let’s blame guns,” he told FOX411’s Pop tarts column. “Once people stop blaming the objects and start blaming the people using them, the world we live in will be a better place.”

Jeff Knox, Director of the guns-owners rights group The Firearms Coalition, extended his sympathies to those impacted by the Newtown tragedy, and echoed sentiment that he would not be surprised if networks were to back away from firearms-related programming – for now. 

“I wouldn’t expect such decisions to last very long because the demand is not going away and there is no connection between such programming and the misuse of firearms. Shows like ‘American Guns’ do not promote, encourage, or glorify illegal or irresponsible activities with firearms,” he said. “Television networks have been slow to answer the demand for gun-related programming. Now that networks and advertisers know that the viewing – and buying – public likes these shows, only some misguided sense of political correctness would keep them from being aired.”

As with all shows that do not rely on subscribers for their revenue, advertiser comfort will be key, said Brad Austin, Director of Development at 10x10 Entertainment, a production company which produces television, film and alternative media.

“I don’t think (networks) will axe their gun shows unless advertisers begin to pull out, but even there are probably advertisers to slide right in behind them. And I think networks can defend their shows to the extent that the selling of guns in the shows are portrayed as being done legally and with proper background checks in place,” Austin said. “Audiences love these shows that portray guns, the regions and worlds they exist in, and the characters involved in the business of guns.”

But that doesn’t mean networks aren’t in the process of re-evaluating these programs. 

“There is a pretty distinct pattern when these things happen – initial over-conservatism with anything remotely interpreted as associated with the tragedy, a period of testing the waters to start discussing the topic again, then complete amnesia that it ever happened,” said Marc Marcuse, the founder of talent management company Real Management. “Right now, many shows are questioning their content based upon the recent tragedies, but I’m pretty sure in a year the topic won’t even show up in meetings anymore. The world moves on, and we tend to not be as sensitive over time as we heal.”

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