Behind the Scenes
American Chopper is a one of a kind show. It follows a family business that makes custom chopper motorcycles. Along the way there is tons of drama, funny moments, and of course awesome rides. The show aired for six seasons between 2003 and 2010 on the Discovery Channel, and it helped launch tons of different spinoffs for both Discovery and TLC. In and of itself, this was a purely American show: one of the first of its kind about a self-made man and his family business creating one of the most iconic pieces of Americana imaginable, choppers. Despite how well the show was shot and how involved the viewers felt, there was always something interesting going on behind the scenes that fans didn’t always know about.
Paul Senior in the show actually had a fifteen-year-long addiction to various different substances before he finally got some help. His wife finally talked him into it and he said goodbye to his terrible ways.
He had one last party before giving it all up, and he’s been doing well ever since. Paul Jr. actually went to rehab at the young age of 16, so unfortunately regarding this one trait, the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.
Aside from this struggle, however, Paul Sr. has been very successful. Born in Yonkers in 1949 and raised in Pearl River, NY, Paul went on to serve with the United States Merchant Marines during the Vietnam War.
He founded Orange County Choppers in 1999, just several years before Discovery Channel decided to turn the business into a reality TV show in 2003. That’s pretty lucky!
When Paul Sr. flexed his muscles and fired his own son things got messy. TLC said that because of the way their contracts were written, both of them had to be on the show. Paul Sr. refused to take his son back on the show and TLC actually filed a notice of default and cancelled production.
The show only started re-filming when Paul Jr. was re-hired as a contractor.
As the legal issues continued, it’s no surprised that the executives involved saw a brand new opportunity to make some money in the typical exploitative way reality TV is so famous for. In 2010, TLC premiered American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior as a spinoff that focused on the rivalry between Orange County Choppers (Paul Sr.) and Paul Jr. Designs (PJD). The introduction for the show was narrated by both father and son and read:
“This road that we’re on is only going to lead to one place. All this passion and pride brought us together. And drove us apart. It only makes sense that this ends where it started. With the build.”
The contract with the show had Paul Jr. working as a contractor in his father’s garage. However, there was a pretty big loophole. Paul Sr. could apparently buy out Paul Jr.’s stake in the Orange County Choppers business and block him from both being on the show and making any money.
This whole loophole led to a pretty big feud for a few years and it set the tone for how the show would go throughout that time.