• TV Networks: When Tragedy Strikes, Reschedule the Show

    by  • November 17, 2015 • Television, Violence • 5 Comments

    Media violence

    It’s a recurring pattern: when a terrible real-life event occurs, networks reschedule violent programs. But is this the best response they could offer?

    In the wake of the horrifying terrorist bombings in Paris last weekend, several media organizations announced changes or delays to their programming. CBS announced that this Monday’s episodes of Supergirl and NCIS: Los Angeles would be delayed several weeks, as both episodes contained storylines about terrorism.  Similarly, TNT pulled an episode of its program Legends, which dealt with protests in Paris; and both ABC’s Quantico and the Showtime drama Homeland ran cautionary warnings about episode content.

    Such a response by the entertainment industry is nothing new. After the August shootings in Virginia, USA network delayed the season finale of the violent Mr. Robot and its scene of a man shooting himself in the head. After the tragic mass murder of children in Newtown, Fox delayed airing a violent episode of Family Guy. After the Boston Marathon explosions, ABC pulled a bomb-themed episode of Castle – yet aired it a week later. Perhaps most infamous of all, after the Boston Marathon bombings, Fox pulled Family Guy episodes that joked about murder at the marathon from its website – but it had been happy to air the episodes to begin with.

    This is the standard reaction of television networks: when a real-life tragedy strikes, they delay an upcoming violent episode (but don’t cancel or refuse to show it entirely). The networks claim they are doing this out of “concern for viewers’ sensitivities.”

    Apparently no one at a network has ever asked themselves: do viewer “sensitivities” simply cease to exist unless and until there is a real-life tragedy? If violent content is offensive a week after a real-life tragedy, why isn’t it offensive two weeks after that?

    Maybe, just maybe, networks should consider what they show, and act just as responsibly BEFORE a real-life tragedy as they do after one.



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    5 Responses to TV Networks: When Tragedy Strikes, Reschedule the Show

    1. Paul Fitzpatrick
      November 24, 2015 at 11:12 am

      It’s not that they rescheduled programs because they were violent; they just rescheduled programs that dealt specifically with terrorism. It is legitimate for crime programs to have storylines about terrorism; after all, it is a reality. It’s a matter of whether the programs GLORIFY terrorism and violence.

    2. Michael
      November 20, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      (but don’t cancel or refuse to show it entirely) That wouldn’t be fair to the fans of the show to not show it at all. Also it will promote illegal acts like piracy. Fans of shows deserve to be able to see every episode in the season. If some people are still sensitive to a recent event, then don’t watch it. People watch TV to relax after a long days work and they should be able to watch the new episode of their favorite show despite it’s content. It’s not the episode’s fault if it has a plot similar to a recent tragedy. I even hate it when shows delay a new episode or air episodes out of order because it causes the overall story to suffer. Art and expression should not be affected by current events. If a channel ever did what you are asking I would think fan petitions, protests, and mass boycotts would be in order, because other people shouldn’t be able to dictate what others can watch even in times of tragedy.

      Think about this, If we cancel a show because of something a violent psycho did. Isn’t that saying what they did worked, they wanted to cause an effect and create an impact and they did? If you allow a psycho’s act to change things or create an impact aren’t you telling other people, all they have to do to change things and create an impact is to become a psycho?

    3. Jean Wanek
      November 20, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      I am so repulsed by the amount of violence and sexual content on TV these days. It is no wonder that the world is becoming violent when you turn on the TV and all you see is people shooting at other people! We need to get that garbage off of television. Comedies like “The Carol Burnett Show”, “I love Lucy”, etc., were funny and they were able to keep it clean without all the bad language and violence that seems to be so popular these days. People need to stop buying products from the sponsors of these shows!

    4. patricia Tucker
      November 20, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Yes, that is so sad and insensitive to show violence on tv after it has happened..in real life

    5. Jonathan
      November 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Why would a network completely cancel a show that is getting views and good ratings? Just because your group doesn’t like a violent show doesn’t mean that others do. I’ll take Gotham over Supergirl anyday.

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