Network kept 'Baker's' suicide from viewers

Dec. 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM ET

Wesley Durden committed suicide in October, but viewers of "Next Great Baker" didn't know that until after he was eliminated from the show Monday night.

The big news on Monday night's episode of TLC's "Next Great Baker" had nothing to do with the in-kitchen competition. Instead, fans were stunned, then some were angered, as the network revealed after the episode that contestant Wesley Durden had committed suicide back in October.

Durden, from Jacksonville, N.C., was an active paratrooper with the Army 82nd Airborne Division in Fayetteville. N.C.. He was seen being eliminated from the competition show on Monday night, but it was then revealed that he shot himself back on Oct. 24.

The show addressed the death with a memorial note after the episode had aired in its entirety, but not within the context of the program, which was taped earlier this year in New Jersey.

The death shocked many who had come to appreciate and root for the self-taught baker. One viewer wrote on Television Without Pity: "I was shocked to see the memorial screen to Wesley at the end of the show; I didn't know. I could tell he was an underdog but he seemed so nice and cheerful and made references to his family during baker's challenges so I was pulling for him to stay in the game just a little a longer. It's even more shocking to come to the TWOP boards and find out that he checked himself out of THE GAME. :( I thought I would be reading that he had a heart attack or car accident."

Some were saddened by the death itself but not bothered by the form in which the news was delivered. Others disagreed.

The writers of ShortFormBlog, which posted about the announcement of Durden's death, noted that numerous fans took to Twitter to express outrage at how the death was handled, primarily upset by the fact that the network chose to air numerous episodes without revealing that Durden had already died.

"We're disgusted by this Wesley Durden #TLC thing," writers for the site tweeted. "Based on our traffic in the last hour, so are many viewers."

Durden was 29 according to TLC, but 28 according to his Fayetteville Observer obituary. He leaves behind wife Maria, 7-year-old son Wesley III and 2-year-old daughter Giannia, as well as his parents, sister and grandparents.

A friend wrote in his online guest book: "Wes was one of the best men I ever had the pleasure of meeting, when he spoke you listened, when he smiled you couldn't help but follow."

What do you think? Should the show have dealt with Durden's death from the first episode on, or even canceled the entire season? Or were they right to address it with a memorial card after the baker was eliminated? Tell us on Facebook.

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