Discovery Channel's reality series Amish Mafia, which has come under attack for how it portrays some residents of Lancaster County, Pa.'s religious Amish community, is returning on Feb. 10 (9 p.m.) for what will be its final season, the network said this week, making news again in Lancaster, where the production inspires a lot of coverage.
"It's a combination of the show running its course and it's not really being consistent with Rich Ross's vision for the network," Laurie Goldberg, group EVP of public relations at Discovery, told Multichannel News.
Ross, named channel president this past October, has emphasized "authenticity" since coming on board. At the TV critics' tour on Jan. 8 he said Discovery Channel would not, for example, repeat stunts such as the Shark Week movie about a fake prehistoric creature called a megaladon or the special that set up the possibility that a man wearing a specialized suit would be consumed by an anaconda.
Discovery Channel this week labeled the upcoming nine episodes of Amish Mafia as the final season for the show, which set ratings records for the channel when it premiered in December 2012. In 2014, the show averaged 2.2 million viewers on a live plus same day basis and a rating of 0.84 in the ages 18-49 demographic (25th overall for Discovery programs, including films and specials), according to a Ratings Intelligence analysis of Nielsen data.
Following in the footsteps of TLC's highly-rated Breaking Amish, Amish Mafia, about some tough individuals who help "keep the peace" in Amish country, has been called fake by locals. A promo currently running on the show's Facebook page includes a news report that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett urged the show to be dropped. Discovery has in the past maintained that the show depicts "a side of Amish society that exists under the radar" but also acknowledged changing some identifying information and re-enacting some scenes.
A local Lancaster activist Mary Haverstick has campaigned against the show, and helped through the group Respect Amish to publicize statements by Lancaster-based The Hershey Co. that it has chosen not to advertise during Amish-themed shows on Discovery outlets. Discovery Communications-owned TLC has two Amish-themed shows, Breaking Amish, which completed its latest season last year, and Return to Amish, which will return this year, a TLC spokesman said.