According to star and executive producer Jerrod Carmichael, NBC went back and forth in deciding whether to air the episode, “Shoot-Up-Able,” in light of the shooting earlier that day at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., as well as a separate multiple shooting incident in the Bay Area.
“At 5:55 [8:55 in the Eastern Time Zone], I ultimately got the call that it wasn’t going to air, five minutes before it was scheduled to go on in the East Coast,” Carmichael recalled to IndieWire.
“I had a great conversation with [NBC Entertainment chairman] Bob Greenblatt, and I think it’s important to note that he had very real concerns that we address [why] we stood behind the episode,” Carmichael said. “And to his credit, he made it very collaborative. He was very open and actually made the decision to air it. It went back and forth.”
The episode centers on Carmichael’s title character, who returns home after witnessing a mass shooting at a shopping mall. According to the listing, “he fights against being coddled by his family and being labeled a victim, but things are made harder when he’s forced to tell a police officer exactly what he saw.” Later in the episode, Jerrod admits that he may be suffering from post-traumatic stress.
That day, Carmichael raced to Universal City to tape a disclaimer to run before the episode and explain why he and NBC thought it was valuable to run in light of the news.
“We wanted to tape something to let people know that we are not trying to capitalize on this, but rather have a conversation,” he said. “That we do respect that there are true victims here and that if we didn’t think that this episode had a lot of love and integrity with it, then we wouldn’t want to air it. I’m not trying to make anyone on the show look bad or look opportunistic. It was really such a sad unfortunate thing. And we only thought that the episode could contribute [to the dialogue].”
Carmichael even suggested that Greenblatt join him on camera to discuss the decision. (The comedian said he was inspired by a special episode of “Saved By the Bell” where then-NBC boss Brandon Tartikoff appeared to give the audience some context.) But Greenblatt demurred.
“Ultimately the network’s largest fears won out and they decided not to air it,” Carmichael said. “But it was a great moment for me and Bob Greenblatt talking about this. He was very thoughtful about it and he had a lot of real things to say, a lot of real concerns and I think we handled it. It was a very great collaborative moment. It unfortunately did not produce like the result that I think we wanted.”
But Carmichael said, in being cautious, he understood the reasons. “The worst thing possible is that someone related to the events is watching television and sees something that they don’t want to see at that moment,” he said. “But I do think that we handled [the subject of mass shootings] so delicately and so honestly that I think it would have been a relief.”
“The Carmichael Show” has earned critical praise for its storylines, which often tackle the same kind of relevant social subjects that real families often discuss in their homes – including politics, race, religion, sexuality and more.
This week’s episode, “Cynthia’s Birthday,” is also unusually timely, as it addresses the use of the “n” word by white people – coincidentally right after HBO’s Bill Maher found himself lambasted for using the term on “Real Time.”
“We choose a lot of these topics because of how much they’ve already come up and how much how they are already part of our lives,” Carmichael said. “And so everything that we talk about on the show is a bit evergreen. It’s never just one event that causes us to want to talk about it. These are series of events and things that we’ve seen over the course of our lifetime. [Timely examples] like this are inevitable. It’s inevitable we’ll have another example.”
Carmichael does acknowledge that the show has hit a string of real-world coincidences recently. “This season has been a bit more than ever before timely,” he said. “But I think it’s just an example of how much these things really come up.”
And that’s why, when asked whether “The Carmichael Show” will ever produce a live episode, Carmichael said it wasn’t necessary. “Shoot-Up-Able” was taped months ago, but felt so current – including a “Dear Evan Hansen” joke the same week it won a Tony Award – that live isn’t necessary.
“I don’t think we could have done a stronger live episode,” he said. “I think this was essentially a live episode.”
Except that it ultimately didn’t air – yet. Carmichael said “Shoot-Up-Able” is set to be rescheduled, possibly on June 28.
Meanwhile, “The Carmichael Show” cast remains in limbo as NBC makes a decision on a fourth season. The network doesn’t have much longer if it wants to lock in the cast, however, as their options expire at the end of the month. And since “The Carmichael Show” went on the air, a number of stars — including Lil Rel Howery (“Get Out”) and Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip”) — have started to break out on their own.
“If I may, this cast is really the best cast on television,” Carmichael said. “This cast is so busy and so great. You couldn’t lock down a cast like that on television, it would be impossible to get… we’re still in this place of waiting. It’s a fickle industry, and you never really know. I wouldn’t want to hold them up in any way or keep them in limbo for too long.”
As for the future of the show, “this season is my favorite, so whatever happens I’m over the moon,” he said.