The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 3, 2013

Pitfalls of reality TV

The Register-Herald

— A generation ago, MTV opened its first broadcast with a music video titled “Video Killed the Radio Star” by a group called The Buggles.

It was a bold statement.

Back in 1981, MTV vowed to change the way popular music was consumed and marketed. Radio was once the avenue that popularized music, especially from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Things quickly changed with the new phenomenon.

But Music TV has turned into Menial TV.

In recent years, MTV has abandoned its music video format and now produces mostly “reality” programming.

In doing so, it seems the network’s mission is still aimed at influencing popular culture among our youth.

Unfortunately, in a negative light.

The business of killing stars continues today.

Sadly, news trickled out Monday of the disappearance and ultimately, the death of Shain Gandee, a 21-year old Kanawha County resident.

Gandee was a member of the cast of “Buckwild” — a show produced by MTV that debuted in January and reportedly was in its second season of filming in West Virginia.

The cast members, all West Virginia residents, were filmed acting out in ridiculous scenarios and encouraged to participate in stunts for the MTV cameras.

While receiving a paycheck to do so.

Over the weekend before his death, Gandee talked to a reporter and vowed there would be “more mudding” in season two. He basically predicted that he may “go through” (wreck, destroy) at least one or “maybe more like four or five” trucks while off-road driving, no doubt giving viewers — and the network — more of what was expected from a “Buckwild” star.

He was found dead in his truck with two other victims Monday afternoon, stuck in mud. They left a bar early Sunday morning, telling others they intended to “go mudding.”

By promoting obnoxious behavior of the Buckwild cast, MTV must bear some of the burden of Gandee’s demise.

People are charged with providing drugs that leads to an overdose of someone.

There are also servers or bartenders charged with providing alcohol to intoxicated persons that are killed in accidents after leaving a bar.

This situation seems to parallel to those scenarios.

While the attempt of the show is clearly to be funny, “Buckwild” is no joke.

Other cast members have been arrested for possession of drugs and DUI.

And now, Shain Gandee’s life has been taken.

Hopefully not in vain.

Our hope is that television viewers will refuse to further support any such programming that exploits and offers no quality that could even come close to being called entertainment.

Those that call “Buckwild” entertainment must now ask themselves, were the few laughs at the expense of the cast worth this?

Glorifying cast members of these “reality” shows and exalting them to celebrity status is nonsense.

Encouraging this type of dangerous behavior by being a consumer of it is irresponsible.

In trying to live up to the hype of being young, wild, careless and free, young adults and even children die every day, usually influenced by drugs and alcohol.

And now, TV.

Before the show first aired, there were concerns about how it would impact the image of our state.

It offered nothing positive for West Virginia.

But even that issue pales to the news this week.

A young man is dead.

May we wake up to what is being shoved down our throats in the name of entertainment.

And may we refuse to endorse it, by hitting the remote button.