VH1 Abandons Reality Series After Contestant's Apparent Suicide

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

VH1 finally waved the white flag on the other reality series that featured "Megan Wants a Millionaire" competitor Ryan Jenkins, accused killer of his onetime wife, who was found dead over the weekend in an apparent suicide.

"Just in case you missed it, we're sad to announce that the fate of both 'Megan Wants a Millionaire' and 'I Love Money 3' have been determined: both have been canceled and will not make it to air," VH1 blogged around noon ET Monday.

The international hunt for Jenkins ended Sunday when it was discovered that he apparently used a belt to hang himself in a room at the Thunderbird Motel in Hope, B.C.

Jenkins's death came little more than a week after a guy searching a dumpster in Buena Park, Calif., for recyclables discovered the naked, mutilated body of Jenkins's onetime wife, Jasmine Fiore, which had been stuffed in a suitcase and tossed in the trash bin. As soon as Jenkins was identified as a "person of interest" in the murder case, VH1 announced it was suspending its telecast of "Megan Wants a Millionaire," which had already aired three episodes.

On Thursday, Buena Park Police Chief Tom Monsoon announced there was a warrant out for Jenkins in Fiore's murder. The next day, VH1 finally threw in the towel on "Megan" but held out hope for "I Love Money 3," a slated 2010 series in which Jenkins also competed.

Sunday, Viacom-owned VH1 blogged that Jenkins had been found dead, citing TMZ.com as its source. VH1 added:

"There's not really much to add to that by way of commentary. Tragedy begets tragedy. Of course, our sympathy goes out to the friends and families of Jasmine Fiore and Ryan Jenkins, as it has for the past several days."

Setting aside the biblical use of "begets" on VH1's Web site, let's instead focus on how wrong VH1 got it. Why, we can think of at least two priceless bits of commentary right off the top of our head.

Let's start with this:

If VH1 is going to stick with its "celebreality" business model, maybe it should impose some vetting standards on the company that produces these shows. Scruples aside, that makes good business sense. We're not sure how much it cost VH1 to scrub most of "Megan Wants a Millionaire" and all of "I Love Money 3" -- a network rep did not answer our e-mail asking -- but we're guessing that scrapping them altogether costs way more.

And, how about this:

Does VH1 bear more responsibility for putting Jenkins on the air than, say, Warner Bros. when it cast O.J. Simpson in the NBC pilot "Frogmen" shortly before the Juice took off on a slo-mo car chase after his ex-wife and her friend were found dead?

Likewise, is VH1 more culpable for not insisting that 51 Minds -- the production house of "Megan" and "Money 3" -- do a proper background check on the two shows' participants, than any Hollywood studio that has put Tom Sizemore in front of a camera since, oh, say 2003?

VH1's Casting Nightmare caused a flurries of articles about The Skank That Is Reality TV to blanket the media landscape.

Our fave comes from the New York Daily News, which reported that Fiore's murder puts the spotlight on the lack of safety precautions on many reality series.

But the newspaper holds "Big Brother" up as a beacon of safety-ness. "Big Brother" executive producer Allison Grodner avowed that the safety of her show's contestants is "vital" -- and before anyone is sent into the house, he or she goes through "rigorous screening."

"You do background checks, do psychological tests," Grodner told the paper.

"One of the things we say about the 'Big Brother' house is it may be the safest because obviously cameras and microphones are on all the time," Grodner continued, warming up to her subject.

Hey, remember that time the cameras were rolling when "Big Brother" contestants Justin Sebrik and Krista Stegall were making out on the "Big Brother" kitchen table and both appeared to be hammered, and he good-naturedly joshed about bashing in her head with the house's carpet-sweeper, and then drew a kitchen knife and put it to her throat and inquired whether she would mind if he killed her? At that time, back in the early days of "BB," the producers kept the camera rolling, CBS suits then said, because the network did not believe Krista's health or safety had been in jeopardy. Even back then, "Big Brother" was the safety-est on Earth!

Oh, and FYI, the production house of "Big Brother" -- the way more careful people -- is Endemol. "Megan" and "Money 3," on the other hand, are produced by 51 Minds, which is owned by -- say what? Endemol? What are the odds!?

And here, just 'cause, is what VH1 blog patrons had to say Monday about the cable network's decision to scrub "Megan Wants a Millionaire" and "I Love Money 3":

"Wow! I wonder who ended up winning in the end. I always thought that something was wrong with Ryan," said Di.

"Seriously? He's dead, no big deal now. Don't they always say 'The show must go on'?" wondered Jen.

"Why are you cancelling the show? It is frustrating when you are watching every episode and then before the season is up, you cancel it. Ok . . . That Ryan guy killed his wife, but it would just make the show all that more intresting, " said Rachel.

Viacom Bares 'Skins'

Speaking of Viacom-owned cable networks and show-participant vetting, won't it be fun to see how MTV screens the teens it casts in the U.S. version of the U.K. series "Skins," which will be set in Baltimore?

MTV announced Monday it had landed the rights to develop the racy series in the United States, based on the E4 and Channel 4 series about a bunch of teens who are "trying to grow up and find love and happiness."

Like the Brit version, MTV will cast unknown teens to write and star in the series. Kind of like "The Hills."

Bryan Elsely, who is co-creator of the British version, will write and executive-produce the American version, MTV said. Except it also said the show will be written by the teens.

Like, I'm so sure it's written by the teens!

And it's unclear whether the show will actually be set in Baltimore, or "set" in Baltimore in much the same way "The West Wing" was "set" in Washington.

"Skins" was declared a hit in the U.K. for reaching a whopping 61 percent of its 16-to-34-year-old telly watchers. By the way, you can already see the U.K. version of "Skins" -- it's on BBC America, but it's been washed of all the fun -- by which we mean drug use, cigarette smoking, naughty words and graphic sex.

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