Sgt. Wesley Durden, a paratrooper who was deployed to Iraq twice since 2007 and, coincidentally, also a contestant on TLC's Next Great Baker, died in late October of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. So why is it news now? Because TLC didn't inform viewers of Durden's death until he was kicked off the show. Which happened four episodes into the second season, airing Monday night.
The season premiered in late November, a full month after Durden died, and yet no mention of his death was made until he was eliminated from the competition. To be clear: his death was not mentioned in the context of the show but rather announced with an "In Memoriam" note that ran after. It made no mention of the fact that Durden's death was a suicide. (And had a promo for some show called Candy Queens displayed over it. Really, TLC?)
Fans of the show have been tweeting their dismay over Durden's death and the way it was revealed, and bloggers are calling for networks to "rethink reality shows." Not everyone thinks TLC mishandled things, though: according to the blog HyperVocal, "It's not clear there was a way for TLC to handle this any better than it did. If you alert viewers to what happened either before Monday’s episode or when he committed suicide in October, producers risk sucking any dramatic heft away from the proceedings." Really? Here's the clip of Durden being eliminated from the show, which, given the context, is a bit eerie:
Video: Next Great Baker: Wesley Durden Elimination
· Sad Reality TV Plot Twist of the Night [shortformblog via BuzzFeed]
· Bragg Soldier's Death an Apparent Suicide [WRAL]
· All Next Great Baker Coverage on Eater [-E-]