Almost two weeks after Deadline broke the news of West Virginia Wilder, a Buckwild follow-up docu reality series filming in Morgantown and Charleston, WV for a projected summer launch, the show became a target of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. Today, he accused the series of playing “into vicious stereotypes,” prompting a swift response from the West Virginia Wilder producers who accused Manchin of “just looking for attention.”
Caught in the middle of the controversy was MTV, which has not been involved in the independently-produced series. West Virginia Wilder had been shopped to various networks and has found a home, according to executive producer JP Williams.
The series, from executive producers behind MTV’s reality hit Buckwild, is described as a comedic follow-doc about a group of hard-working and fearless teens and twenty-somethings. After watching that trailer for the series, released at the time of the announcement, (you can watch it again above), Manchin said he felt “compelled to speak up on behalf of West Virginia and West Virginians out of a deep sense of concern.”
He did it in the form of a lengthy letter (you can read it here) addressed to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, which he posted on Twitter. “I believe that you can make a compelling show about the people of West Virginia that does not play into vicious stereotypes, and I stand ready to help you do just that,” Manchin said. “I invite you and the entire production team to join me for a tour of my home state and the people I’m proud to call my friends and family from the southern coalfields to the Potomac Highlands and everywhere in between.”
While there is no mention of any network in Manchin’s letter, because Buckwild aired on Viacom’s MTV, he appears to be under the impression that Wild Virginia Wilder also is an MTV series, which is not the case. When asked by Deadline whether West Virginia Wilder could follow Buckwild and air on MTV, the producers said earlier this month, “MTV knows we are back in West Virginia and has asked us to bring in the project.”
Following Manchin’s open letter to Viacom topper Bakish today, Viacom was quick to respond, replying to Manchin’s Twitter post to stress that Viacom and MTV have no involvement in the series — as producers or distributors.
Buckwild, which also drew criticism for stereotypical portrayal of WV youth, was a breakout hit for MTV in its freshman season in 2013 and was in production on Season 2 when the 21-year-old star Shain Gandee died unexpectedly, leading to the series’ end. Among the cast members of West Virginia Wilder is Spencer “Tar” Tarley, a relative of the late Gandee.