On Wednesday, the country was shocked by the events in Alexandria, Virginia, where a gunman targeted a congressional baseball practice. The event re-sparked our national debate about gun violence, and was yet another reminder of how prominent of an issue this is in America. As a response to the shooting, NBC pulled an episode of The Carmichael Show entitled “Shoot-Up-Able,” which dealt with the fallout from a mass shooting. They ultimately aired a different episode instead, and Jerrod Carmichael made it clear during an appearance on Chelsea that he was not happy about it. While it’s understandable that NBC would be worried about the “too soon” question, I ultimately agree with Carmichael; pulling the episode was the wrong move, and it cost the network the chance to make a powerful statement.
First off all, if we’ve learned anything from The Carmichael Show’s first two seasons, it’s that Jerrod and company are quite capable of handling difficult, sensitive topics with both grace and humor. We saw this last season, when Jerrod struggles with the decision to attend a Bill Cosby show, after his girlfriend, Maxine, objects on the basis of his long history of rape allegations (this one feels especially relevant with Cosby’s trial starting). We see the characters debate the question of whether the great art a person makes can be separated from their deplorable actions, relating that question to the likes of Woody Allen and Michael Richards, as well as Cosby. With the Cosby episode, The Carmichael Show proved that it could handle a difficult topic with the necessary nuance. Based on this, I would have to imagine the same will be true if “Shoot-Up-Able” eventually airs.
If that alone isn’t proof enough that Carmichael is capable of handling this topic, consider that season 1 included an episode simply entitled “Guns,” where Maxine is horrified to find out that Jerrod carries a gun. Later, when Jerrod’s father stays with him after being kicked out for his own gun possession, the pair get into an argument that leads to them putting their guns on the table and ends with Jerrod’s father getting accidentally shot. The episode ultimately takes an anti-gun stance, but it’s also respectful and understanding of the reasons why some people would want to carry guns. The Carmichael Show is quite aware of the difficulties that surround issues like this, and in its three seasons, has accrued quite a bit of credibility.
There’s a case to be made that, even considering The Carmichael Show’s history of thoughtful, nuanced episodes about challenging modern concerns, NBC still was right to pull the episode because people were still in shock. This argument is understandable, but let’s be honest: Pulling an episode about a fake mass shooting isn’t going to lessen the effects of the real one. If anything, an episode touching on this topic right after the country experienced it in such a direct form might have been a perfect moment of catharsis. Pushing the episode back a week, or even a season (we still don’t know when the episode will actually air) isn’t going to do anything to fix the fallout from what happened on Wednesday. Really, by pulling the episode, NBC missed the chance to start a real conversation, which has something The Carmichael Show has been doing for three seasons.
In some ways, The Carmichael Show is a bit anachronistic; it’s a multi-camera sitcom with a studio audience, and in a lot of ways has a distinctly old-school vibe to it. And yet, the topics covered on the show are decidedly modern. So far, this show has covered topics like gentrification, the Black Lives Matter movement, and transgender issues and has acquitted itself well on every occasion. My guess is, at some point, when the controversy dies down, “Shoot-Up-Able” will make its way to the airwaves, and when the time comes, it should prove to be yet another intelligent and funny look at a key contemporary concern. Frankly, however, the show has earned enough credibility over the years that NBC never should have pulled the episode in the first place.