CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The immediate reactions on social media to the death of reality television star Shain Gandee ranged from sadness to the belief that the announcement was part of an April Fool's prank to outright mockery of his show.
MTV's "Buckwild," which follows the antics of a group of young adults based loosely around the town of Sissonville, has been one of the most polarizing subjects in West Virginia in recent months.
Some embraced the freewheeling ways of the group as an honest portrayal of rural life in the Mountain State -- even though prior to the first season, several locals pointed out that much of the show was staged for effect with specific scenes repeated for the benefit of the cameras.
Others, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, denounced the show as exploitive. Manchin said he was "repulsed" by a show "where some Americans are making money off of the poor decisions of our youth."
Gandee's body, and those of his uncle and another man, were found Monday afternoon after the men had been missing for more than a day. They were apparently four-wheeling, or "mudding" -- one of the activities that Gandee loved to participate in on "Buckwild."
Over the weekend, Gandee participated in the grand opening of a family store in Crown City, Ohio. He promised that the second season of "Buckwild" would be more of the same wild times that viewers saw in the first.
"There'll be more mudding," Gandee told a reporter for The Parthenon, Marshall University's student newspaper. "Hopefully I'll only go through one truck. It's hard to tell though; maybe like four or five."
Filming for the second season of "Buckwild" had begun recently. MTV representatives did not return requests for comment from the Gazette. MTV spokesman Jake Urbanski told The Associated Press that shooting for the second season was suspended Monday afternoon.
Gandee's death and the legal troubles of another major "Buckwild" cast member, Salwa Amin, may put the show's future in doubt. Amin was arrested in February and charged with possession of heroin with intent to deliver. She was returned to jail last week for failing to appear in court.
MTV released a statement online: "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."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.