In the wake of the mass shooting in Virginia, which saw several lawmakers targeted ahead of a congressional baseball game, NBC has decided to pull an episode of The Carmichael Show in which its star and creator, Jerrod Carmichael, survives a similar event at a mall.
In “Shoot Up-Able,” Carmichael’s character returns home from his near-death experience and recounts the day’s events to his family. What ensues, according to those who have seen the episode, is a thoughtful examination of the trauma that follows these types of tragedies.
Carmichael sat down with Chelsea Handler before NBC made its final decision and said that while he understands NBC’s position, he doesn’t agree with it.
“What it says is that you don’t think America is smart enough to handle real dialogue and something that reflects real family conversations and something that feels honest and true and still respects the victims,“ Carmichael said.
As Vice’s Pilot Viruet points out, this isn’t the first time a major network has pulled an episode in the aftermath of a national tragedy. “In 2013, after the Boston bombing, episodes of Hannibal, Castle, and even a scheduled repeat of New Girl were pulled; in 2015, the season finale of Mr. Robot was postponed after the murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward; last year, TNT pulled the season premiere of The Last Ship because a fictionalized nightclub murder resembled that morning’s Pulse shooting,” Viruet writes.
Though we’ve yet to see the episode in question, it reportedly doesn’t depict any actual violence, which is what separates it from the episodes listed above. That approach can be jarring and disruptive so close to raw events. Instead, it uses “truth and humor” to explore an issue that too often gets bogged down in the partisan debate over the need for gun reform and the right to bear arms.
"I thought that [the] episode would have an opportunity to talk about these tragedies in a meaningful way, to really lend itself to conversation,” Carmichael told Handler. “A lot of times when things like this happen and someone wants to talk about it in an outlet that’s not the news, people will say ‘too soon.’ But when is it not too soon? Unfortunately, these things happen constantly, and it’s a thing that breaks all of our hearts.”
What makes NBC’s decision even more puzzling is the fact that Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview with Sandy Hook truther and overall wingnut Alex Jones is still scheduled to air despite protests from actual victims of gun violence. Pulling that interview might not be wise, either—but at least it would be consistent.
The network’s decision to give a platform to a man who literally just wondered aloud about what’s going to happen when “somebody pumps rounds” into Wolf Blitzer’s “little pumpkin head” over a thoughtful and introspective artist like Carmichael is a baffling one, and one they’ll have to live with after the next mass shooting, and the next one, and the next one after that.