TNT delayed the premiere of its program “The Last Ship” because an episode of the show depicts events that are similar to those of the recent Orlando shootings.
“Ship” premiered in 2014 and depicts a world in which the world has been deeply affected by illness and those on board a Navy ship must try to help.
The episode that was scheduled to air June 12 included a segment in which a nightclub in Vietnam was attacked.
Those who work on “Ship” are of course far from the first to have their programs have episodes moved or never aired because of their similarities to contemporary events. A few programs that recently experienced this are CBS’s “Supergirl” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” both of which had episodes that involved bombings and members of the Islamic State taken off the schedule after the attacks in Paris in November 2015.
The season finale of the USA drama “Mr. Robot” had been delayed earlier that year because it depicted someone harming themselves on live television. The episode had been scheduled to air around the time of a TV news reporter and cameraman in Virginia were shot on camera.
Networks of course can’t predict whether their shows, many of which involve characters fighting against violent criminals, will end up depicting incidents that are similar to real-world tragedies. Some critics have debated whether taking these episodes off the air or delaying them is the right strategy – whether networks should avoid airing content that some might call unfeeling or whether networks should trust viewers to make up their minds about what they are comfortable seeing at that time.
“The week-long wait allowed viewers to watch and appreciate ‘Mr. Robot’ on its own terms, without opening a wound that may still have been fresh in their minds,” Yahoo TV writer Ethan Alter wrote about the “Robot” episode. “...[But] it’s entirely possible that watching Supergirl swoop in to save the day and stop a mad bomber would provide relief to viewers who are still unsettled by the terrifying news footage from Paris. If only tragedies like that could be eliminated as easily as episodes of television.”
And A.V. Club writer Stephen Bowie writes that decisions like these may have made more sense following, for example, the Kennedy assassination, when an episode of the TV show “Route 66” about an assassin was delayed.
But now, writes Mr. Bowie, “in the era of DVRs, Internet streaming, and portable devices, it has become common practice to choose and schedule our own TV viewing. The notion of the network nanny is out of date. A look at the comments sections on any of the news stories announcing these pre-emptions seems to confirm a solid consensus in favor of viewers being allowed to make their own decisions on what to watch. Media literacy has grown exponentially, yet television executives treat us exactly as they did in 1963.”