This story is over 5 years old.


Why the Pulled Mass Shooting Episode of 'The Carmichael Show' Is Still Vital

NBC has no plans to air the episode just yet, but here's why they still should.
Photo by: NBCUniversal

Early on in its first season, The Carmichael Show quickly garnered a reputation for focusing episodes on "hot-button" issues. It's a sitcom in the vein of Norman Lear: finding an important and much-debated topic and then distilling it down to 22-minute sitcom fare, all while in front of a roaring studio audience. Through gallows humor, The Carmichael Show can find laughs in everything from police brutality to Bill Cosby. The episodes aren't really meant to provide answers, but to pose questions that allow the characters—and by extension, the viewers—to bring up multiple viewpoints. Some we agree with, some we don't. You're supposed to be entertained for the duration of the show, and you're supposed to spend some time thinking about it afterward.


Now in its third season, The Carmichael Show has kept this up: it covered rape in its season premiere and assisted death just last week. The episode that was supposed to air last night was "Shoot-Up-Able" one set during the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. In response to yesterday's multiple shootings, NBC pulled the episode—airing, instead next week's "Lesbian Wedding"—and has not yet said when, or if, the episode will air.

Temporarily pulling episodes in the wake of tragedies is general practice. 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. These are understandable decisions as the episodes often depicted violence that was eerily similar to the real-life events, often featuring triggering images. The Carmichael Show's "Shoot-Up-Able" is different.

The episode, which I watched a screener of last month, doesn't depict violence. There's never an image of anyone wielding a gun. It's about the aftermath, the trauma, the way people talk about violence, and the way they come together and help each other after violence occurs. In an appearance on Chelsea, Jerrod Carmichael discussed why he disagreed with NBC, explaining that the decision says, "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." (His full appearance on the episode will air on Netflix on Friday.)


The comment about the episode respecting the victims is key, because it's exactly what "Shoot-Up-Able" does: it finds a smart, affecting way to talk about the victims of mass shooting through Jerrod, who narrowly escapes becoming one himself. It doesn't, like many of the understandably-pulled episodes, gleefully focus on the criminal and their violence, and it doesn't sensationalize a murderous event for shock value and entertainment. Instead, it's quiet, introspective, and ultimately warm (and yes, riotously funny at points). It's driven by the characters, and it examines the slow-effects of trauma—this is what we need from television.

The episode also—even just based on the title!—discusses the all-too-common occurrences of these shootings. A place that is "shoot-up-able," according to Jerrod, is a crowded place with little security: malls, concerts, train stations. The characters chat about this as if it's second nature, because it almost is second nature at this point. What the episode wants is for us to talk about why this feels so normal, what effects it has on us as people who witness this violence day after day, and what we can do to fix it. But we can't do that if the episode doesn't air. (It's also worth nothing that The Carmichael Show already tackled guns once before, in its first season.)

After a shooting, there are inevitably people—often pro-gun advocates—who will chastise anyone calling for change by explaining, "Now is not the time to discuss gun control." It's a way to keep putting off a necessary discussion by never actually talking about it. NBC's decision to pull "Shoot-Up-Able" is annoyingly reminiscent of this train of thought because it silences the conversation. It's one thing to pull an episode that glamorizes violence but it's another to pull an episode that both uses truth and humor to comfort those who are hurting while also jumpstarting a national discussion. As Carmichael said, this "does a disservice to all of us."

Follow Pilot Viruet on Twitter.