Wesley Durden, an Army paratrooper with baking skills, was a beloved character on the second season of TLC’s The Next Great Baker.
The 28-year-old was a recreational baker, a great contestant on the reality show and still active with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Or, so fans of the show thought.
Monday night’s show featured Durden being eliminated from the contest. But then in a cruel twist of fate, TLC subsequently broke the news to viewers that Durden had died back in October from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Whoa.
The Fort Bragg soldier, husband and father of two, had been deployed to Iraq from January 2007 to March 2008 and again from August 2009 to December 2009.
Naturally, people expressed their frustration of having the rug pulled out from under them on Twitter.
Pretty much all of the Twitter comments were a variation of shock, confusion and memorial.
There were many ways to handle this, but 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, or they run the same risk of being accused of leaking the tragic news for publicity. It’s a tricky balancing act, and there’s no rulebook for how to handle something this tragic.
All TLC could do was make a decision and hope it didn’t piss off a lot of people.
RELATED: You should also read this piece from HyperVocal partner IAVA called “Epidemic: Army National Guard Suicides Double in 2010“