The “Digging for the Truth” cover-up

Recently, the History Channel has carried out some sort of a cover-up with regards to one of its popular documentary series “Digging for the Truth”. As you might recall from one of my earlier postings, “Digging for the Truth” ran for three seasons hosted by Josh Bernstein, and in the forth season the host duties were taken over by another History Channel host Hunter Ellis. Unfortunately, the lacklusture performance of the new host, coupled with the change to a more action-orientated method of presentation, disappointed many fans. And as yet, no new episode of DFT has been announced since season 4 ended.

While I was browsing the official DFT website and reading through its discussion board, I learnt that DFT season 4 was originally planned to have two hosts, Hunter Ellis, and Zay Harding, who is famous for hosting several episodes of the traveling show “Globe Trekker”. Many of Zay’s fans as well as fans of DFT were enthusiastic about the new energy and drive Zay would bring onto the show. Indeed, promos of DFT featuring both Zay and Hunter Ellis were released ahead of the premiere of season 4, as well as upcoming episode schedules indicating which episodes would be hosted by whom. [UPDATE: The two links no longer work as the History Channel had revamped its website.]
However, just as DFT season 4 was about to premiere, all DFT promos which featured Zay were pulled off air, and all references to Zay on the DFT website were deleted. And the premiere episode, initially scheduled to have been an episode hosted by Zay, was instead replaced by a Hunter Ellis episode. No official explanation was given by the History Channel for the abrupt changes, and the discussion board was rife with questions on why Zay was missing from the show, until some insiders revealed that Zay Harding had been released from his contract, apparently because of a small acting role that he played in a film over ten years ago, which made the History Channel deem that Zay was unsuitable to host this educational documentary series. Another post suggested that Zay left the show because of ‘creative differences’ with the History Channel.
Most DFT fans regard Zay’s removal from the show to be unfortunate, a loss for History Channel itself, as Zay was considered by many to be an amazing host on “Globe Trekker”, with his great personality and hot looks, and having an ability to breathe life into the topics that he presents. Indeed, many viewers planned to watch DFT just because they heard that Zay Harding would be hosting.
And as a result of Zay Harding’s removal, nearly all the DFT episodes hosted by Zay were either reshot with host Hunter Ellis, or simply left unaired or unproduced. A previously released episode schedule indicated that there would have been 13 episodes, just as in previous seasons. But DFT season 4 eventually aired only 8 episodes. Among the episodes that were either unaired or unproduced featured topics such as the Neanderthal Men, King Midas, Hawaiian Surfer Kings, and the Great Wall of China. A two-hour episode on the Mediterranean Pirates originally supposed to feature both hosts was cut down to one hour, and with Zay’s scenes reshot with Hunter Ellis. It can almost be certain that the Neanderthal Men episode was produced, since that was initially scheduled to be the premiere episode. And some footage I believe to have been shot for the Hawaiian Surfer Kings episode has surfaced on Youtube.
I should say that I was rather intrigued by the extent of the cover-up that History Channel has undertaken, to make it look as if Zay Harding has never existed, at least where DFT is concerned. Nevertheless, History Channel did not do a perfect job, as when I was watching the channel the other day, a promo of DFT showed Zay Harding walking around Angkor Wat and explaining about the ancient ruins, and I found this very surprising as I know for a fact that the Angkor Wat episode was hosted by Hunter Ellis since that episode had been aired before. Obviously, all of Zay’s scenes has been reshot with Hunter Ellis, and nearly scene for scene.
On the left is Zay Harding, a still from the DFT promo. And on the right is Hunter Ellis, who is redoing the same scene in the actual episode aired. In both scenes, they were explaining that there were many possible reasons that caused the fall of the Angkor Empire, using the same words: “Like in any great murder mystery, the list of suspects here is long…”
Here’s another comparison, with Hunter Ellis on the right redoing Zay Harding’s scene, probably standing in the exact same spot.
And in this comparison, we have Hunter Ellis walking down the same stretch that Zay Harding had threaded previously.
I am rather convinced that these two scenes come from the unaired Neanderthal Men episode hosted by Zay Harding, with Zay exploring the caves and trying emulate the Neanderthals by spearing a deer.
This could be a Zay Harding swimming scene from the unaired Hawaiian Surfer King episode.
Obviously, much has been lost when the History Channel decided not to air the DFT episodes hosted by Zay Harding but still not reshot with Hunter Ellis, but apparently this is standard practice in TV production under such circumstances. Strangely enough, the History Channel has made available the DFT Angkor Wat episode on DVD for sale from its website, and it is the version hosted by Zay Harding.
“Digging for the Truth” season 4 now airs on the History Channel on Wednesday nights 10pm, with repeats on Thursday and Saturday. Catch host Hunter Ellis performance on the show, and maybe I’ll blog about that subject one day.

2 Responses to The “Digging for the Truth” cover-up

  1. zayharding1 says:

    Tommy Lin, I wish to commend you on a superb job of pointing out the obvious cover up that has gone on in this series. Remember, when something feels off, it usually is. Great work. I really appreciate your supportive and kind words. Also, I wonder if you still have copies of these shows?

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