×

‘Buckwild’ Star’s Death Muddies Waters for Daredevil Reality Shows

MTV’s disclaimers sound hollow after Shain Gandee dies while engaging in activity seen on show

Though “Buckwild” has only had one season on MTV, the death of show star Shain Gandee made waves in showbiz and social media, raising questions about the future of the rowdy reality skein.

(This article is from the pages of the April 9 issue of Variety. Also see today’s latest update: MTV Cancels ‘Buckwild’ in Wake of Shain Gandee’s Death)

Production was immediately halted on the second season of the show, which centers on a group of hard-partying young adults in West Virginia — part of the wave of hillbilly comedy-reality skeins clicking on cable these days. The show wrapped its first 13-episode run in February, and made enough noise for MTV to secure a quick renewal.

The 21-year-old Gandee, his uncle and another passenger were found dead March 31 in a Ford Bronco that was partially submerged in mud. The trio, according to local reports, had gone “mudding” after a night at a local bar in the Sissonville area where “Buckwild” lenses. The official cause of death was listed as accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The truck’s muffler was found completely submerged in mud.

The circumstances of Gandee’s death eerily recall scenes from the show that depict him roaring through deep puddles of mud, the camera swaying back and forth as his truck pitched through the pits while castmates shriek with laughter. Gandee emerged as the star of the show early on, with young femme fans dubbing him “Gandee Candy.”

This isn’t the first time MTV has faced a PR nightmare when it comes to the country-livin’ series. Before “Buckwild” even hit the smallscreen, some West Virginia residents pleaded for the show to be canned, saying it doesn’t reflect their state or culture. Then, after season one aired, cast member Salwa Amin was arrested — and then re-arrested — on suspicion of drug-related offenses.

The death of Gandee, however, raises issues that transcend beyond “Buckwild.” The program is one of the rare follow-around reality shows to offer a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode, because of the reckless behavior of its cast.

What’s more, mudding is a central activity in “Buckwild,” glorified in opening credits, sizzle reels and commercial teasers. It has served as B-roll gold between scenes of drunken hookups and arguments. MTV even offers a bonus clip online titled “Mudding Mishaps” that features Gandee playfully reminiscing about when other cast members were frightened while on a “mudding” drive.

MTV implores viewers to not “attempt to re-create or re-enact” any of the behavior seen on “Buckwild.” At the time of Gandee’s death, Zoo Prods., the shingle behind the skein, had been shooting the second season for at least a few weeks.

Gandee’s death occurred in his off hours, and not while the show was filming. Four-wheeling appears to be a hobby that Gandee began well before “Buckwild.”

Yet the deaths raise inevitable questions about reality TV showcasing dangerous behavior — and criticism of nets who mine the shows for ratings but still run disclaimers pleading for auds not to actually engage in such activities.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content