'Mr. Robot' season finale postponed because of similarity to WDBJ shooting

Other shows like 'Family Guy' and 'Hannibal' have altered episodes because of similarities to current events.

Rich Fury/Invision/AP
'Mr. Robot' stars Rami Malek (l.) and Christian Slater (r.).

The USA Network delayed the airing of the season finale of its hit show, “Mr. Robot,” because the network says the finale includes a sequence that is similar to the recent shooting in Moneta, Va.

On Aug. 26, WDBJ-TV news reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot by a former employee of the television station while Parker and Ward were conducting a live interview. Parker and Ward were both killed and a third victim, Vicki Gardner, was also shot and is now in a medically induced coma. 

"The previously filmed season finale of ‘Mr. Robot‘ contains a graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia,” USA said in a statement. “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."

“Robot” centers on hacker Elliot (Rami Malek), who works for a security company but invades other people’s computers on his own time. He soon encounters a man who calls himself Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and the man’s group of hackers, who are determined to defeat E Corp, a ubiquitous tech company. 

The show has become a big hit for USA, with critics calling it “enthralling,” “intriguing,” and “just might end up being named one of the summer’s best.” 

“Robot” is far from the first show to be affected by current events. Those behind TV shows of course have no way of knowing what can unfold between the time a script is written and when a TV episode is set to air.

In 2011, Fox was set to air episodes of its animated series “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Cleveland Show” in which all of the characters dealt with a hurricane. The episodes were taken off the schedule after tornadoes caused more than 300 deaths, with Alabama and Mississippi in particular being affected by the weather. 

In 2013, those behind the NBC drama “Hannibal” decided against airing an episode following the Boston Marathon bombing. The episode involved a woman who convinces children to commit crimes. 

Some movies have been released with themes that can seem unfortunate because of recent events. The movie “The Watch” was released in 2012 and starred Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill as people who create a neighborhood watch. The movie came to theaters several months after the shooting of Trayvon Martin. In addition, 2014’s comedy “Let’s Be Cops,” in which two friends wear police uniforms as costumes and then decide to pretend to be real police officers, came out in August of that year, only a few days after the killing of Michael Brown.

As mass shootings continue in America, some are pointing to the culture of Hollywood as a reason why the country experiences so many.

Stephanie Pappas of Live Science wrote that “the American preoccupation with fame” is one possibility for why mass shootings occur so frequently. Pappas cited a 2007 Pew Research study that found about half of 18- to 25-year-olds believed becoming well-known was important to others their age.

“We know that a lot of public mass shooters, particularly when they're young, have admitted that they really want to be famous, and that killing is how they're going to do it,” Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor and author of a recent study on international gun violence, told Live Science.

Debate has occurred over whether shooters’ names should be reported publicly, thereby giving them the fame they often seem to be seeking.

In 2013, Wall Street Journal writer Ari N. Schulman called for journalists and police to “hide their names and faces … concealing their identities will remove much of the motivation for infamy.” And recently, prosecuting attorneys in the trial of James Holmes, who admitted he was responsible for a movie theater shooting in Colorado, avoided using his name in court.

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