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Shain Gandee: Buckwild’s Decent Human Being

- April 5th, 2013


Watching people we despise? It’s part of the fun.

Over the past few years, reality TV has produced a number of irksome characters, including Survivor’s Russell Hantz and Jonny Fairplay, The Apprentice’s Omarosa Manigault, Jersey Shore’s Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, and hundreds of other untoward people that we love to hate. And to watch.

No doubt some of the young castmembers of MTV’s rural reality show Buckwild, which wrapped up its first season in February, fall into this category. The episodes follow a group of friends from Sissonville, West Virginia, who perform Jackass-type stunts during the day, and then drink, flirt and fight with one another at night.

But amongst his crew of party-throwing, neighbour-battling twentysomethings, one of the castmembers emerged from the rest as a shining light, a likeable lug, a southern superhero, a Decent Human Being. You’ve probably heard a lot about him recently. His name was Shain Gandee, and earlier this week he was found dead in an SUV from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Of course, the 21-year-old reality star – who seemed to relish in the country hick stereotype and earned the nickname ‘Redneck MacGyver’ for his inventive building skills – participated in a lot of zany stunts during the show. Yes, he did some dumb things. But he did a lot of good things, too:

  • While wooing Cara, he fashioned a “Wolf Pen Bouquet” out of wild daisies he found. Sure, it’s kinda cheap, but it definitely beat Tyler’s romantic gestures for Cara (which were basically none). And who can forget when Shain lit that romantic “S+C” chicken wire creation on the beach in the finale?
  • When Ashley expressed interest in an upcoming bullriding event, he invented a homemade mechanical bull so that she could practice. It looked pretty fun. And dangerous.
  • When the girls wanted to go for a swim, he created a pool in the back of a dump truck.
  • When his friends went clubbing in Morgantown, he joined them, even though he’d never hit a nightclub before.
  • He treated his family well. The show hinted at a strong relationship with his parents – even if they gave him grief for blowing out his trucks all the time.
  • He tried his best to maintain his family tradition and create a business, enlisting his grandmothers to help him make and sell ‘Gandee Candy’.
  • He formed friendships with everyone in town – especially during his shifts as a garbage collector – because of his sunny disposition and outgoing personality. “I don’t have no Facebook,” he said in the show. “I don’t have none of that Internet stuff. If I need to talk to my neighbours, all I gotta do is come out here on my porch.”

Obviously, Buckwild’s producers edited their footage to assemble this wonderful, entertaining character. But I’m betting that the real Shain was pretty close to the Buckwild version. Amongst the show’s peculiar individuals, Shain was the one person that you could see yourself befriending in real life – kind of like Vinny Guadagnino, the sensitive ‘guido’ that went to university, in the first few seasons of Jersey Shore.

Will Buckwild continue? Who knows, as MTV has currently suspended production. Perhaps there’s a larger, Truman Show-type point to be made here about reality stars partying to their deaths for the cameras (although, in this case, the camera crew wasn’t there at the end). But aside from all that, one thing’s for sure – MTV had a Decent Human Being on a reality show for a change, and now he’s gone.

Seven questions about the return of Community

- February 4th, 2013


Greendale’s back in session! After an agonizing nine-month wait – a delay more painful than watching videos of Leonard reviewing snack food on YouTube, or listening to Pierce Hawthrone describe his airplane bathroom encounter with Eartha Kitt – Community returns to television screens this week. Looking ahead to Thursday’s season-four premiere, here are seven questions we’re pondering as the members of our favourite study group, The Greendale Seven, start their senior year.

  1. What will it be like with series creator Dan Harmon gone? Though new showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port have assured fans that they’ll be maintaining the spirit of Community, you’ve got to look at the new episodes with some skepticism. Wasn’t this series based on Harmon’s real-life experiences with a community college study group? It’s difficult to imagine the show without his voice. It’s like firing Quentin Tarantino halfway through the filming of a Tarantino movie, or removing Phil Jackson from behind the bench of those championship Chicago Bulls teams of the ’90s.
  2. How will they explain the absence of Pierce Hawthorne? With Chevy Chase’s departure last November, Community lost one of its most hilarious characters. It’ll be interesting to see how the writers deal with the fact that Chase only appears in 11 of the 13 episodes. He does make an appearance in the season finale, however, and the reported cliffhanger ending will leave the fate of his character in the air. Will they deal with his death later, in a season-five premiere, Two-and-a-Half-Men style?
  3. Will the storylines become more conventional? Community’s clever meta-humour and daring plot choices have helped the series develop a loyal following. But the esoteric plots from season three – such as the alternative realities episode, or the episode where Abed films a documentary about Dean Pelton’s commercial – felt a little too off the wall for some viewers, including Sun television columnist Bill Harris. Guarascio and Port will likely dial down the crazy. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
  4. Will the season’s delay affect the plot? NBC’s decision to bump season four from its original October launch date to February could create some out-of-sync storylines. Will we be watching a Christmas episode in April? Will some cultural references seem dated? Some bloggers have noted that Thursday’s Hunger Games parody – The Hunger Deans – may have felt fresher in the fall.
  5. Will any new romances crop up? Teaser clips for season four seem to hint at the continuing sparks between Troy and Britta. Are Jeff and Annie completely over? Will Magnitude finally find a companion for lengthy conversations consisting of only “pop pop”? One thing’s for sure – Dean Pelton will still be holding a candle for Jeff Winger.
  6. What will Ben Chang’s new role be? So far, he’s been a Spanish teacher, a student and a security guard. We’re hoping his new persona lends itself to a cornucopia of fresh Chang puns.
  7. What guest stars will show up? We’ve already seen appearances by Jack Black, Patton Oswalt, LeVar Burton, Drew Carey, Rob Corddry, Hilary Duff, Luis Guzman, French Stewart and Taran Killam. And John Goodman excelled last season in his recurring role as the intimidating Vice Dean Laybourne. So far, we’ve heard that season four will include glimpses of Malcom McDowell, Jason Alexander and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas. And James Brolin playing Jeff’s father? Sounds good to us.

Whether or not this becomes Community’s final season – and whether or not the quality of season four is “streets ahead” – we’ll definitely be tuning in. Six seasons and a movie? We can only dream.