Update - April 1, 4:12 p.m. EDT: According to an MTV spokesperson, “Production had begun on Season 2 of Buckwild but has been suspended.”
Buckwild, which premiered in January, was positioned as a Jersey Shore replacement for MTV — a lighthearted, drunken romp in Appalachia instead of on the beach. But now the West Virginia-set reality show is facing the death of its breakout star, 21-year-old Shain Gandee.
Here is the network’s statement:
We are shocked and saddened by the terrible news about Shain Gandee, and those involved in this tragic incident. We are waiting for more information but at this time, our main concern is for the Gandee family and their friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Shain had a magnetic personality, with a passion for life that touched everyone he met and we will miss him dearly.
Buckwild’s 12-episode first season certainly didn’t achieve the ratings heights of Jersey Shore, but it did decently. MTV renewed it in February before Season 1 ended; according to the network, it drew 3 million viewers in Live +3 ratings (meaning, people who watched the show within three days of its premiere).
Reality shows have faced death before and continued, illustrating its aftermath: The suicide of Russell Armstrong from Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is the most dramatic example of that. And Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch continued to film fisherman Phil Harris after a stroke that led to his hospitalization and death: notably, the show won an Emmy for documenting the end of the popular Harris’ life. Buckwild, though, is meant to be hilarious drunken antics of so-called redneck reality kids, not matters of life and death.
And Buckwild has other controversies. In MTV’s quest to cast authentic West Virginian kids who like to off-road and shoot guns, Buckwild has perhaps stepped into other local problems: Cast member Salwa Amin was arrested in February during a drug raid for felony drug possession with intent to deliver. Last week, according to TMZ, she was arrested again for failing a drug test. She tested positive for oxycodone and morphine.
Even before its premiere, Sen. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, criticized the show, writing to MTV, “As a U.S. Senator, I am repulsed at this business venture, where some Americans are making money off of the poor decisions of our youth.” Reached today by BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, Sen. Manchin struck a different tone in this statement: “Gayle, my family and I join all West Virginians in praying for the Gandee family as they go through this difficult time.”
When asked whether the show will continue, an MTV representative did not give an answer other than the statement above.
Updated at April 1, 6:07 p.m. EDT to add the Manchin statement.