Note: This post has been updated to reflect a February 4 email from J. Hutton Pulitzer clarifying his February 2 blog post.
Let’s stipulate off the bat that J. Hutton Pulitzer is in no way qualified to investigate history. He has not the education, the curiosity, or the temperament to examine evidence or create a coherent argument. But that doesn’t mean that everything he says is useless. In a blog post last night Pulitzer unintentionally offered a shocking portrait of the sordid world of cable television, even as he proceeded to misunderstand the events in which he took part.
Pulitzer, as most of you know, is extremely angry at The Curse of Oak Island and its executive producer, Kevin Burns, the man who also oversees Ancient Aliens and reality garbage like The Girls Next Door and Kendra on Top. Pulitzer revealed some of the reasons why in his blog post, and it turns out that he is foaming at the mouth with rage because Burns promised Pulitzer a show that never materialized, and plied him with promises of the goldmine having a cable show would produce. (He puts the figure at $450,000 per week, which I think is meant to represent the total production cost.) Pay close attention to this paragraph about Pulitzer’s trip to Burns’ California offices before production started on Curse of Oak Island, allegedly to discuss how to turn Oak Island into a compelling weekly series:
Burns pulled out all the stops. Plying us with porn from his series “The Girls Next Door” and “Kendra” with DVS of the deleted flesh on flesh and fresh shower scenes. We feasted on pizza as Burns promised us our own series and huge profits, if we could just help him with Curse of Oak Island. HERE IS THE HOLLYWOOD DEMO shot between Curse of Oak Island filming sessions on our work and team. Promises of our own series was enough to pry open our research files and expertise and lend it to Oak Island.
Be sure to watch the video to see Pulitzer’s sizzle reel, complete with “real danger [for] real payoff.” It’s hilarious to hear him talking about being the world’s best treasure hunter, despite having never once found any lost treasure hoard. (He claims to have “solved” the Lost Adams Diggings, for which he offered no proof.) It’s also interesting to learn that “Commander” Pulitzer started “Treasure Force” at the age of nine with his cousin “Beast,” which just about makes sense. It sounds childish. “I’m reliving my childhood days. I’m hunting for treasure, and I’m happy,” he says in the video.
At the time the video was produced, Pulitzer had been brought in as a consultant, and Burns plied him for information to get the show up and running. (What he thought Pulitzer knew is beyond me.) Pulitzer is obsessed with the idea that he somehow gave Burns the ground plan for turning Curse of Oak Island into a going concern, but I am more interested in the allegation that Burns has a secret archive of nude footage of his reality stars which he shares with potential clients. If true, this raises serious ethical issues: Do the women on his shows know that he keeps their nude footage? Or that it’s shared? Worse, this raises serious concerns about Pulitzer’s ethics: A plain reading of his text suggests Pulitzer happily sat in a room full of fat, middle-aged men getting aroused watching voyeuristic video of young women, and he considered that perfectly acceptable behavior. Indeed, he was perfectly OK with watching Burns (allegedly) exploiting his reality stars for his amusement until he discovered Burns had (again, allegedly) exploited him in a different way—for ratings. [Update: Pulitzer emailed me to say that the pornographic footage is merely his description of the uncensored extras on mass-market DVD sets of Kendra and Girls Next Door that Burns gave the Treasure Force, and which Pulitzer declined.]
It’s hard to accept anything Pulitzer says as true, and there’s no point in even asking Burns for comment since it is a foregone conclusion that he will deny the charge. If there is any credence to the story, it is, weirdly enough, because it correlates to a degree with my own experiences with TV producers.
It might have surprised Pulitzer that Burns would pump him for information, make promises about a future TV series, and then dump him like a steaming turd once his vindictive personality became evident, but it’s pretty much what TV producers do. I’ve had conversations with dozens of TV producers, and nearly all of them use those discussions as excuses to get free research. I’ve never had anything go so far as Pulitzer did, which culminated in a demo reel for his failed Treasure Force TV series, but the modus operandi is the same: feign interest, suggest a TV show might happen, request free research assistance or help fleshing out an idea, and then cut off all contact once you get what you want. A few pretended to have interest in my ideas for new TV series, but then disappeared when it came time to actually pitch them.
Just this week a TV producer contacted me out of the blue to let me know that she was not interested in me for a TV show but hoped I would give her free assistance in identifying fringe historians who display obsessive personality traits and conspiratorial mindsets for a new show about alleged cover-ups of the “truth” about history (yes, that again). I had half a mind to give the names of the unbalanced people who launch vicious personal attacks, but I’m too nice to purposely unleash the hounds, even to stop a bad TV show from being birthed.
Pulitzer, who once had his own financial TV show, mistakenly thinks Kevin Burns is conspiring to suppress the “truth” about history. But that puts Pulitzer’s interests at the center of the narrative. Burns is a TV producer who stumbled into fringe history through his interest in science fiction, fantasy, and monsters. The only conspiracy afoot is Burns’ desire to produce countless hours of crappy reality TV, facts be damned. Pulitzer, at heart, is just mad that he is not going to be a reality TV star. Hmm... It seems I know a producer who might just be interested! What a shame Pulitzer spent so much time screaming at me about his “rights” and threatening to sue me. It does not make me very interested in helping. Karma is a bitch.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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