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.