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Multiple networks pull TV episodes because of similarities to Virginia shootings

Mr. Robot stars Rami Malek as an alienated young computer hacker.
Mr. Robot stars Rami Malek as an alienated young computer hacker.
USA

Two networks have pulled planned programming due to unfortunate similarities to Wednesday's shooting in Virginia.

The USA network delayed the season finale of its hacker drama Mr. Robot — originally scheduled to air August 26 — by one week. It will now air Wednesday, September 2, at 10 pm Eastern. In its place, USA re-aired the first season's penultimate episode.

"The previously filmed season finale of Mr. Robot contains a graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia. Out of respect to the victims, their families and colleagues, and our viewers, we are postponing tonight’s episode. Our thoughts go out to all those affected during this difficult time," said USA in a statement.

IFC, meanwhile, has delayed the second episode of its new documentary parody series Documentary Now!, which had been scheduled to premiere August 27. Called "Dronez," a spoof of Vice-style journalism, the episode featured journalists going into violent regions of the world and even some journalists being killed. The episode has been bumped a week to September 3. The network will air "Kunuk," a Nanook of the North parody originally scheduled to air third in the show's run, in its place.

"In light of yesterday's tragic events, IFC decided to air ‘Kunuk' as tonight's episode of ‘Documentary Now!' in place of ‘Dronez.' Our thoughts are with the victims," said IFC in a statement.

"Dronez" had been available online at both YouTube and Vice for weeks. It has been pulled in light of the episode delay.

The Mr. Robot finale featured a scene with distinct similarities to the Virginia shootings

Documentary Now!'s delay is relatively straightforward, as it did feature journalists being put in life-or-death situations. The Mr. Robot situation is different.

Without spoiling, the scene in question does feature a graphic depiction of a gunshot. That may dovetail too closely with the footage posted to the Twitter account of the suspected Virginia shooter, which depicted the shooting of TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward from the point of view of the gunman.

Though the events in the Mr. Robot episode don't have any direct correlation to what happened in Virginia, the graphic nature of what is depicted on screen seemed very likely to bring up thoughts of the events.

Obviously, the delay makes sense out of respect for the families and friends of the victims, but it also makes some amount of artistic sense as well. Mr. Robot is a series that gains considerably from weaving an atmospheric spell around its audience, and thus, anything that disrupts that spell seems likely to pull the audience out of the show entirely.

Networks have chosen to do this before

The most notable example of a TV series delaying episodes because of current events might be when Buffy the Vampire Slayer pushed back not one but two episodes of its third season in 1999, after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. One, "Earshot," was supposed to air a week after the shootings but was delayed to September, because it featured a student taking a gun to school. The student was going to kill himself, but the image of a high schooler carrying a rifle around his school wasn't one The WB, the show's network, wanted airing so close to a national tragedy.

The second episode was actually that season's finale, "Graduation Day, Part 2," which was delayed from late May until July. It featured students rising up to battle a giant snake demon, and that delay seemed a bit more nonsensical, even if it was technically an instance of violence happening in a high school setting.

More recently, "Œuf," an episode of the first season of Hannibal, was pulled entirely from the schedule in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The episode featured children trained to be murderers, and there was some concern it would be seen as in poor taste. The episode never aired on traditional TV in the US, though it eventually debuted online.


Updated: Added information on Documentary Now! pulling an episode.

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