Next Great Baker’s Wesley Durden killed himself in October

A cast member on TLC’s Next Great Baker killed himself in October, but the show, hosted by Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, only revealed Wesley Durden, a 29-year-old father of two, was dead after his elimination on last night’s episode. It was dedicated to his memory.

The Jacksonville [North Carolina] Daily News reported in October that he “died after being found with a single gunshot wound in Fayetteville on [Oct. 25],” and police confirmed that it was “a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

He was identified in his TLC bio as an “active serviceman” in the Army 82nd Airborne Division; he had a 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. A newspaper interview with fellow contestant Carmelo Oquendo said he “was saddened by the apparent suicide of Army veteran Wesley,” but otherwise there was no mention of his death prior to last night.

The network posted this to Facebook:

“TLC extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Sgt. Wesley Durden, who died October 24. He will be warmly remembered by the cast and crew of NEXT GREAT BAKER.”

I’m not sure what to think that TLC promoted and aired a show that featured a contestant who killed himself for unknown reasons, and decided only to reveal that he had been dead for months after he was eliminated from the show. I suppose announcing his death in advance could have been handled poorly and come across as if the network was using it for publicity, but this after-the-fact and post-elimination announcement doesn’t seem like the best option, either.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.