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NBC pulled a sitcom episode about mass shootings. Its creator explains why that's a mistake.

Jerrod Carmichael wants to help people “talk about these tragedies in a meaningful way.”

Jerrod Carmichael (center left) thinks his audience can handle tough conversations.
NBC

The Carmichael Show, an NBC sitcom that routinely tackles difficult subjects and social issues, was supposed to air an episode on the evening of Wednesday, June 14, that deals with the aftermath of a mass shooting. But earlier that day, very real mass shootings occurred in Alexandria, Virginia, and San Francisco. NBC ended up pulling the episode, titled “Shoot-Up-Able,” in the wake of those shootings and airing a completely unrelated one instead — a move that Carmichael Show creator and star Jerrod Carmichael says he understands but vehemently disagrees with.

On this week’s new episode of Netflix’s Chelsea talk show — which was taped the day of the shootings, after NBC made the call to pull the episode — Carmichael brought up the decision himself to express his disappointment that it wouldn’t air at the exact time when he feels it could have been the most helpful.

"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 said. "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."

“Shoot-Up-Able” doesn’t depict a mass shooting, but instead focuses on the complicated feelings that Carmichael’s character grapples with after having survived one. “When something like this happens, we realize that we all suffer from fear of going out, fear of enjoying your life,” Carmichael continued. “We all suffer from the pain of knowing that families have lost loved ones. And that’s what the episode is about.”

While Carmichael insisted during his Chelsea appearance that he does understand the thinking behind NBC’s decision, he also argued that the network did “a disservice” to its viewers. “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. "We handled the episode with as much love and integrity as we could. To pull that is just criminal. It does a disservice to the viewer, it does a disservice to you, it does a disservice to all of us."

The Carmichael Show, which is now in its third season, has made a name for itself by taking on subjects that other family sitcoms rarely touch. Previous seasons have devoted episodes to abortion and Bill Cosby’s legacy, and an upcoming episode in season three will air the n-word multiple times as the Carmichael family debates its use. So it’s not surprising that The Carmichael Show would take on mass shootings, nor that Carmichael himself would be disappointed that NBC pulled the episode and cut off the very thing the show values most: an open, honest dialogue about hard topics that many are often too afraid to touch.

The Carmichael Show currently airs Wednesdays at 9 pm on NBC; seasons one and two are streaming on Netflix, and previous episodes of season three are streaming on NBC.com and Hulu. Carmichael’s episode of Chelsea is streaming on Netflix.

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