Between catching up on “Game of Thrones” and “Making a Murderer,” TV audiences need something light to balance out the gruesome mayhem that tends to be the focus of most other programming.
Usually, that’s what reality TV is best for. Sure, you may not be learning much by tuning in to “The Bachelor,” but at least you’re not overwhelmed by the bleakness of existence after watching an episode.
Prepare to be disappointed. As it turns out, more than a few heinous criminals have appeared on these programs before going on to commit terrible acts of depravity.
The following examples simply prove that you never can be sure what someone is capable of. (And also maybe that some of these shows need better casting directors).
1. “Megan Wants a Millionaire” contestant allegedly murders his wife.
Jasmine Fiore was a young model whose life was cut tragically short when she was murdered in August of 2009. Although her remains were found on August 15 -- stuffed inside a suitcase left in a dumpster -- she had been so badly mutilated that investigators could not officially identify her until August 18.
In the days after her murder, Fiore’s husband, Ryan Alexander Jenkins, avoided law enforcement (though he did report Fiore missing on August 15) by crossing over into Canada via his boat. This strange behavior, along with the fact that Jenkins had acted violently toward his wife in the past, made him the prime suspect in the case.
Prior to meeting Fiore, Jenkins had been a contestant on “Megan Wants a Millionaire,” the VH1 spinoff of “Rock of Love.” The show featured former contestant Megan Hauserman trying to find a match from a selection of rich suitors.
On August 20, authorities officially charged Jenkins with Fiore’s murder and issued an arrest warrant. That same evening, Jenkins checked in to a motel in British Columbia. When he failed to check out on time, the manager investigated the room, finding Jenkins dead of an apparent suicide.
The tragedy resulted in the cancelation of “Megan Wants a Millionaire." Although his season never made it to air, he apparently placed third overall in the competition.
2. Serial killer appears on “The Dating Game.”
Though not as notorious as Manson or Bundy, Rodney Alcala is an equally horrifying serial killer.
Responsible for the murders of at least eight people (though some say that number could be as high as 130), Alcala’s crimes were shocking in their brutality. Alcala had a tendency to strangle victims until they were unconscious, waiting for them to regain consciousness, then repeating the process again several times before finally killing them.
Alcala also had a frightening ability to earn undeserved trust, using a fake name to get a job as a camp counselor despite being wanted for the rape and assault of a young girl. He later posed as a professional photographer to lure his victims. Investigators found over 1,000 photographs in Alcala’s possession, many of them pornographic in nature, all of which he took himself.
Perhaps his most shocking deception involved the entire American public. Although he was a convicted rapist and registered sex offender at this point, Alcala was allowed to participate as a contestant on “The Dating Game.” Unbeknownst to law enforcement, he had also committed multiple murders by this point.
And he won his episode.
Alcala’s prize was a date with a woman named Cheryl Bradshaw, but she later refused to go on the date, claiming Alcala was too “creepy.” At least one criminal profiler believes this rejection may have spurred Alcala to commit several other murders after his appearance on the show.
3. Alleged serial killer seen on “MasterChef.”
Stephen Port is the alleged murderer of four young men he seems to have met on gay dating sites. Though he won’t see trial until October of 2016, Port has been accused of poisoning his victims, whose bodies were found near a church in the area of his home.
Adding an undeniably disturbing layer to this already unsettling story is the fact that Port, who worked as a chef before being accused of these crimes, can be seen in the background of an episode of the UK’s “MasterChef.” The episode aired the same month the first victim was discovered, June of 2014.
Hollywood has us convinced that serial killers are always demented, unemployed loners existing on the fringes of society. If Port is convicted, this case will be a reminder that they can be living and working alongside us without ever appearing out of the ordinary.
4. Star of “Sons of Guns” accused of molestation.
Until recently, Will Hayden was known to most as the star of Discovery Channel’s “Sons of Guns.” The show focused on his company, Red Jacket Firearms LLC, which makes customs firearms.
The program was canceled in 2014, though, after Hayden was charged with molestation of a juvenile. Though Hayden denied the charges, saying that the child's mother was an ex-girlfriend with a grudge, his oldest daughter, Stephanie Ford, has also come forward with similar allegations.
Hayden has yet to be convicted, but his ex-lawyer says there’s “a lot of evidence” against him.
5. Man who appeared on “The Millionaire Matchmaker” charged with rape.
In 2011, Michael Bernback appeared on an episode of “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” That should have been the last time he was in the public eye, but recent allegations have brought him back to our attention.
Bernback has been charged with raping three young women, using drugs to remove his victims’ ability to fend him off. Along with the rape allegations, Bernback has been charged with three misdemeanors for possession of MDMA, GHB and cocaine.
Though the case has not yet gone to trial, if convicted, Bernback could end up spending the rest of his life behind bars.
6. Don Vito of “Jackass” and “Viva La Bam” committed sexual assault.
Known to fans of MTV’s “Jackass” and “Viva La Bam” as Don Vito, the dimwitted uncle of skateboarder Bam Margera, Vincent Margera enjoyed a little more than 15 minutes of fame thanks to his nephew’s star power.
However, his “character” disappeared from the programs in the years leading up to his death in November of 2015.
That was because, after being convicted of two counts of sexual assault on a child, Margera was told by a judge that he could no longer portray Don Vito.
Vincent was first arrested in 2006, when he groped two 12-year-old girls and one 14-year-old girl at an autograph signing. His defense team claimed that this was appropriate behavior for the event, explaining that fans were there expecting to see him in character as Don Vito.
Apparently, sexually assaulting children was part of his act.
Thankfully, neither a jury nor a judge saw it that way, making sure Vincent was kept off our TV screens for the rest of his life.
If there’s one lesson we can learn from these stories, it’s that criminals aren’t always easy to identify. On fictional TV shows, bad guys are clearly bad.
Reality TV proves that it’s not always so obvious.