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Too much, too soon: The legacy of ‘Buckwild’

April 11, 2013
The Inter-Mountain

MTV announced Wednesday that "Buckwild," the reality series set in West Virginia, has been canceled, just a week after the death of one of its young stars, Shain Gandee.

Some local residents had special reason to mourn Gandee's death, after having met him in person at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon in January.

We also regret the death of Gandee, who by all reports was a friendly, good-natured person, but we will not mourn the cancellation of "Buckwild."

The show, which depicted the lives of a group of hard-partying young people in the Mountain State, was a hit, but after the first season cast mates began making headlines for brushes with the law.

On Wednesday, MTV executives said it was "not appropriate to continue" after Gandee's death. Gandee, his 48-year-old uncle, David Gandee, and 27-year-old friend Donald Robert Myers were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on April 1.

The three men had last been seen leaving a bar at 3 a.m. March 31. Friends and family searched all day for them, and authorities issued a missing-persons report the following day.

The Gandees were buried Sunday after a joint memorial service in Charleston that drew hundreds of friends, family and fans. Cameras were not allowed inside the Charleston Municipal Auditorium or at the private family burial in Thaxton Cemetery.

Following Gandee's death, production of the hit show's second season was immediately suspended, and now MTV executives have decided against moving forward with producing more episodes.

Some detractors, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, R-W.Va., had publicly lobbied for MTV to cancel the show before the first episode aired.

Manchin told the network's president it would profit from the "poor decisions of our youth" and that it played to ugly, inaccurate stereotypes about the people of West Virginia.

Gandee was the third "Buckwild" cast member to make unwanted headlines.

Last month, 24-year-old Salwa Amin was sent back to jail for violating the terms of her bond following a February arrest on drug charges. She is facing two counts of drug possession with intent to deliver and remained behind bars without bond on Wednesday.

State Police say a multi-agency task force arrested Amin and two other people at a Summersville residence after receiving a tip from an informant. A search found oxycodone pills, heroin and $3,000 in cash.

Another cast mate, Michael Douglas Burford, was charged in February with driving under the influence.

We feel that "Buckwild," which made its young cast members famous for partying, was indeed a bad influence - particularly on the lives of its stars.

Stardom opens many doors of opportunity, but when your fame is entirely based on drinking and carousing, those doors will inevitably lead to more expensive and more dangerous partying, some of it illegal.

The "Buckwild" cast members are all young people, and faced with the sudden rush of fame, some of them have made bad choices.

West Virginians are known throughout the country for being honest, hardworking, down-to-earth people. When down-to-earth people are suddenly strapped onto a rocket headed for the stratosphere, the new atmosphere can make it hard for them to cope.

We're reminded of the cautionary tale of Jack Whittaker, the Summers County man who won $314.9 million in the Powerball lottery in 2002. It was, at the time, the largest jackpot ever won by a single ticket in American history.

After winning the lottery, Whittaker's life became a public nightmare: he had multiple brushes with the law, and his family suffered a series of personal tragedies. Whittaker had lived 55 years without getting into any significant trouble, but the sudden influx of cash and national celebrity set his life reeling.

The producer of "Buckwild," J.P. Williams, who was born in West Virginia, reacted angrily Wednesday to the news of the show's cancellation. He vowed to continue shooting the series, and to make a "Buckwild" film.

Williams should just call it a day. "Buckwild" has been a black cloud over the lives of its young stars and their families, yet he claims he is only trying to keep the show alive for their benefit.

"It's my job to protect these kids," he said Wednesday.

If that is truly your job, sir, you have failed.



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