MTV announced Wednesday it had laid to rest its “Buckwild” hit reality series, one week after the death of the show’s most popular participant, Shain Gandee.
But not until it runs a “Buckwild special” on Sunday -- at the end of a day of ‘Buckwild’ first-season marathoning that’s sure to clock some mighty impressive ratings.
(“Buckwild” averaged 3 million viewers at the time MTV ordered a second season back in February.)
Gandee, his uncle, and a friend died of carbon monoxide poisoning when his Ford Bronco sank knee-deep in mud, covering the exhaust pipe. The three men had gone “mudding” near Shain’s Sissonville home.
“After careful consideration, MTV will not be moving forward with season two of ‘Buckwild’ in West Virginia,” the network said Wednesday in a statement about its successful “Jersey Shore” successor.
“We love the cast and the show and this was not an easy decision, but given Shain’s tragic passing and essential presence on the show, we felt it was not appropriate to continue without him. Instead, we are working on a meaningful way to pay tribute to his memory on our air and privately.”
MTV’s decision was not embraced by the show’s producer – who belongs to a religious sect that does not believe in losing one’s employment just because your show’s star has died.
“There’s something that smells of [manure] here on every level,” J.P. Williams fumed to The Hollywood Reporter, demonstrating that depth of vocabulary for which the entertainment industry is famous.
“This is the network that has shows about teen pregnancy,” Williams continued. "They'll stick by a show that allows you to abandon a child, but a kid dies by accident… and they cancel the show?”
Shooting had already begun on the second season at the time of Gandee’s death. And the gang had re-negotiated their contracts for that second season, upping their salaries from a pathetic $1,000 per episode in the first season, to a merely embarrassing $4,000 per episode – in case you were wondering why the television industry so loves reality docu-soaps.
The upcoming special, “Buckwild: WV to the NYC,” was shot before production had started on that second season, MTV explained, adding that the “tribute” special, and marathon are being run “with the support of his parents, Dale and Loretta Gandee.”
In its announcement, MTV included a statement from Shain’s mom about the controversial series: “We are honored that we were able to let the world see what a wonderful son we had. He was the best son anyone could ask for. As we look to honor him in our lives every day moving forward, we are happy to share some of his last moments doing what he loved best: having fun and making people laugh.”
On MTV’s “Buckwild” site, Shain is described as loving “mudding, hunting and four-wheeling.”
The reality series hit, about a bunch of “totally wild and carefree” friends (exec producer John Stevens’s description) hit pay dirt not long before its premiere when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) fired off a letter to MTV President Stephen Friedman, asking that the network “put a stop to the travesty.”
“Buckwild” is not the first reality series of an MTV network that’s been scrubbed after a cast member’s death.
Back in August of 2009, MTV’s VH1 network finally waved the white flag on the second of two reality series that featured Ryan Jenkins after he was found dead in an apparent suicide.
Jenkins had been accused of killing his onetime wife.
"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 at that time.
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.
After Buena Park Police Chief Tom Monsoon announced there was a warrant out for Jenkins in Fiore's murder, VH1 threw in the towel on "Megan," though the network held out hope for "I Love Money 3," a slated 2010 series in which Jenkins also competed.
If viewer reaction back then is any indication, viewer reaction to the cancelation of “Buckwild” will not be pretty.
"Seriously? He's dead, no big deal now. Don't they always say 'The show must go on'?" wondered someone named Jen, back when VH1 pulled the plug on Jenkins’s shows
"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 interesting, "chimed in one Rachel.