“Reality television depends on desperate (and occasionally unstable) people”

A New Jersey restaurateur named Joe Cerniglia committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Friday. Which is a shame in itself, of course, but that’s not why it’s been making headlines this week.

Cerniglia was featured in an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, which is one of a number of reality shows featuring celebrated chef/tantrum throwing asshole Gordon Ramsay. Not only that, but he’s the second person who’s appeared on one of Ramsay’s shows to go on to commit suicide – the first being a Hell’s Kitchen contestant named Rachel Brown, who shot herself in 2007.

Now, although there are people out there who might suggest that Ramsay himself is somehow to blame for these suicides, there’s obviously no merit for such an argument. Ramsay might be an insufferable prick – or he might just play an insufferable prick when the cameras are rolling, which hardly makes him a better human being – but it misses the mark to suggest that he was somehow responsible for these otherwise unrelated deaths.

Sean O’Neal of the A.V. Club interpreted the situation differently, and arguably much more accurately, earlier this week. “Like the incident with Brown,” he says, “this is just a sad ending to one person’s story, but their unfortunate connection to Ramsay does underscore, once again, how much reality television depends on desperate (and occasionally unstable) people.”

And to think, it’s a pretty safe bet that O’Neal has never even heard of Khuram Sher.

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