UPDATED THURSDAY: “The Carmichael Show” star Jerrod Carmichael taped an episode of Netflix’s “Chelsea” on Wednesday, right as NBC was deciding whether to air that night’s episode of his topical sitcom – and he expressed disappointment that it wouldn’t run.
“NBC wants to pull the episode,” he told host Chelsea Handler. “I understand a corporation wanting to make that decision. But for me that says you don’t think America is smart enough to handle real dialogue and something that reflects real family conversations. Something that feels honest and true and still respects the victims. We handle the episode with as much love and respect as we possibly could. But to just pull the episode is just criminal. It seems to do a disservice to the viewer. We’re having what I hope is a conversation about that.”
NBC ulimately decided to push the episode of “The Carmichael Show,” which deals with a mass shooting incident, in light of Wednesday’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., as well as an incident in San Francisco.
The episode, “Shoot-Up-Able,” may air later in the season, but NBC was not available for comment. The episode centers on Jerrod (Jerrod Carmichael), 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.
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“I thought that tonight’s episode would have an opportunity to talk about these tragedies in a meaningful way,” Carmichael said on “Chelsea.” “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.
“The episode itself is about me, the character surviving a mass shooting and coming to the conclusion that even though he wasn’t physically harmed he is still very much a victim. We are all victims when something like this happens. We all suffer from fear, fear of going out, the pain of knowing that families have lost loved ones.”
Instead of that episode, NBC will air the episode “Lesbian Wedding,” which was originally scheduled for June 28.
The timing of “Shoot-Up-Able” was obviously coincidental, as the episode was taped months ago. But it’s a reminder that “The Carmichael Show” has earned critical praise for its willingness to tackle hot-button subjects such as guns, in a smart way that mixes humor with honest emotion and dramatic moments.
NBC’s decision is common in the wake of news like what happened in Alexandria; after past shootings, networks have pre-empted episodes of shows such as “Family Guy.” Last year, USA delayed the launch of “Shooter” due to a sniper in Dallas. At the time of the “Shooter” delay, some pundits noted that shootings have become so common in the United States that networks may have to constantly pre-empt shows.
Speaking of timeliness, next week’s episode, “Cynthia’s Birthday,” focuses on the use of the “n” word, in this case by a white character. The debate comes, again coincidentally, soon after the controversy surrounding Bill Maher’s use of the word on HBO.
As IndieWire’s Steve Greene recently noted in his Season 3 review of the show, “Even when tackling these heavy issues — the new season starts out with frank discussions of rape, patriotism and assisted suicide — ‘The Carmichael Show’ mines its best moments of comedy from two people or two opposing sides of a family acknowledging the perspective gap they have between them. And though the show frequently divides various family members along gender or age lines, ‘The Carmichael Show’ has never set up an easy, formulaic us vs. them pattern where the audience can easily predict where everyone will stand.”
“The Carmichael Show’s” prescient ability to discuss headlines as they seemingly happen brings to mind other shows that have faced similar situations, such as “Homeland.” Coincidentally, “Shoot-Up-Able” even features a character singing a song from “Dear Evan Hansen,” which coincidentally would have aired just days after it won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Here’s Carmichael’s appearance on “Chelsea,” set to premiere this Friday on Netflix: