This past week marked the tragic end to the lives of two reality television stars. On Feb. 14, Reeva Steenkamp’s death made headlines far from her South African home after her boyfriend, famed Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, was implicated as the likely culprit. Steenkamp’s appearance on South African television show “Tropika Island of Treasure” (2013) followed soon after, with multiple memorials to its fallen star in its first episode.
And just on Sunday, country singer Mindy McCready passed away in an apparent suicide after a life battle with substance abuse, some of which was chronicled during her appearance on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” (2008).
While neither star died during the filming of their reality television show, their notoriety plays into the sensationalism of the medium. Reality TV, much like journalism, banks on the drama its contestants or main characters can bring. This is not to say that television producers are actively seeking such tragic occurrences, but they certainly can’t hurt the ratings.
Well, most of the time anyway. VH1’s would-be reality dating show “Megan Wants a Millionaire” never met its audience after a contestant’s death. The man in question, Ryan Jenkins, had been sought for questioning and later charged in the case of his wife’s murder. Subsequently, he disappeared and was then found dead in an apparent suicide in British Columbia. VH1 cancelled the show, later confirming that Jenkins had placed third. For the more sadistic readers out there, here’s the trailer to the series, which seemed like it would have been quite trash-tastic.