By Ken Tucker
Updated August 22, 2009 at 03:18 PM EDT

Does some reality TV encourage criminal behavior?

Today The New York Times has a piece about VH1 cancelling showings of Megan Wants a Millionaire in the wake of Ryan Jenkins, a contestant on Megan, being charged by police of murdering his former wife, Jasmine Fiore.

The article by Brian Stelter is a well-reported piece that raises questions “about the casting practices of reality television, particularly the sometimes tawdry shows broadcast by VH1.” That is, the casting process seems either lax or pretty laissez faire about including someone with a criminal record, as Jenkins had.

Here’s my broader question: Does some reality TV, in the minds of some of its contestants, encourage bad or even criminal behavior? Did, for example, Jenkins’ prominence on Megan lead him to think he could get away with heinous acts? I’m not suggesting that appearing on, say, Rock of Love is going to put anyone in the mood for murder. But we all know that shows like this benefit from casting people with explosive tempers and generally aggressive behavior traits. Does reality TV’s tantalizing promise of anyone-can-be-a-star, in everything from Celebrity Rehab to various editions of The Real World, to name-your-favorite-get-drunk-and-plot-to-win series, either show by example or suggest by implication that amoral or lawless behavior is not merely okay but a way to profit, and become famous?