Is reality TV worth dying for?

Posted: April 04, 2013

THE DAYS foreshadowed in Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" are upon us.

In that 1976 movie, network bosses hire a terrorist group to kill an aging anchorman on air to goose ratings.

Is what TV is doing (and causing) today - outing fame-starved people in a pressure cooker - that much different?

Five people who've appeared on Dr. Drew's "Celebrity Rehab" have died since being on the show.

Wesley Durden Jr., a contestant on "Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker," shot himself. So did Rachel Brown, a contestant on "Hell's Kitchen."

Joseph Cerniglia, who appeared on Gordon Ramsay's other show, "Kitchen Nightmares," jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

In 2009, a contestant on Bulgarian "Survivor" suffered a fatal heart attack while filming on an island in the Philippines.

Paula Godspeed, a failed auditioner on "American Idol," OD'd in her car near Paula Abdul's house.

On the VH1 show "Megan Wants a Millionaire," a reality show we'd never even heard of, broadcasts were suspended after contestant Ryan Jenkins was wanted by police in the murder and dismemberment of his swimsuit-model wife, Jasmine Fiore. Why the married Jenkins was on a dating show remains unclear.

He hung himself in a Canadian hotel room a few days later.

(According to Wikipedia, Ryan was Megan's third choice.)

And who can keep track of all the craziness and tragedy with the assorted "Real" housewives and teen moms?

Most recently, on March 22, Gerald Babin died during the first day of filming of French "Survivor" ("Koh-Lanta").

On Monday, shooting for the second season of MTV's "Buckwild" was suspended after cast member Shain Gandee, nicknamed "Gandee Candy" by fans, was found dead along with two others inside an SUV in West Virginia.

Also on Monday, well-known French TV doctor Thierry Costa, the man who treated Babin's mysterious cramps on "Koh-Lanta" before the contestant later died of a heart attack, committed suicide on location on an island in Cambodia. He blamed the press for damaging his professional reputation in a handwritten suicide note that French TV's TF1 published on its website.

Not just the press. An inquiry into possible "involuntary homicide" in Babin's death was launched by the Creteil prosecutor's office southeast of Paris, and TF1 immediately canceled the show's season.

But, controversy over Babin's death continued. Anonymous comments appeared in French media accusing Costa, the on-air doctor, and Adventure Line Productions of negligence that contributed to Babin's death - charges that all parties vehemently denied.

"These last few days my name has been smeared in the media. Unjust accusations and assumptions were uttered against me," Costa wrote on notepaper from the hotel where the "Koh-Lanta" team was staying. "Having to rebuild this destroyed reputation seems unbearable to me, so this is my only possible choice."

In his suicide note, his last wish was to be cremated in Cambodia so that his body never had to return to France.

No matter how fake it is, reality TV is sometimes a bit too real.

Who needs Kickstarter?

The Walt Disney Studios will film a new version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" in Australia, which will pay the studio $22.6 million to film there, the government said Tuesday.

David Fincher, of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Social Network," will direct, said Disney Asia-Pacific spokeswoman Alannah Hall-Smith.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs.

The announcement came after "The Wolverine," starring Australian actor Hugh Jackman, recently wrapped filming in Sydney. The government paid Fox Studios around $13 million to film in Australia.

It reportedly generated approximately $80 million in investment.

In related news, Paramount Pictures announced a deal Tuesday with China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises to help on the production of "Transformers 4."

According to the agreement, China Movie Channel, which is overseen by the Chinese government, will help select filming sites in China, and with theatrical promotion and possibly post-production work there.

It also will work with the filmmakers on casting Chinese actors in the movie, which stars Mark Wahlberg and is due out in June 2014.


*  Elton John and his longtime songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, will be honored at this year's Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

John and Taupin will receive the Johnny Mercer Award during the June 13 ceremony in NYC.

This year's Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees are Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, of Aerosmith; Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, of Foreigner; and Holly Knight, JD Souther and Tony Hatch.

* Disney and Pixar announced Tuesday that Ellen DeGeneres will reprise her "Finding Nemo" voice role for "Finding Dory." The sequel is due out Nov. 25, 2015, and will be directed by Andrew Stanton, who also made "Finding Nemo."

"I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time," DeGeneres said. "I'm not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating 'Toy Story 16.' But the time they took was worth it. The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It's got a lot of heart, it's really funny, and the best part is - it's got a lot more Dory."

That's hunky.

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.

Phone: 215-854-5678

On Twitter: @DNTattle

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