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USA Network made news last month when it decided to push back the season finale of the buzzy drama Mr. Robot a week because of what it called a “plot similarity” to the Virginia TV shooting.
However, that wasn’t enough for the Parents Television Council.
A week after the finale first aired on Sept. 2, the PTC is blasting the cable network for airing the episode at all. The episode was originally delayed because of a scene that showed a corporate executive putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger, killing himself in the middle of a live TV interview. The scene drew comparisons to the Aug. 26 Virginia TV station tragedy, in which reporter Alison Parker was killed on air while conducting a local news interview. The station’s photographer, Adam Ward, was also killed. Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by Parker at the time, was also shot.
“USA Network should have realized that a graphic suicide scene is highly inappropriate for children and rated the episode for adults only (TV-MA). The scene is disturbing and graphic for adults, let alone children. While this is emblematic of the TV content ratings system, it is inexcusable. USA Network should commit to a thorough and transparent evaluation of the process it uses to rate its own shows so that children won’t be exposed to this type of graphic content again,” said PTC president Tim Winter in a statement.
The episode was originally rated TV-14. In his statement, Winter also slammed USA Network for airing the episode in September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month.
“USA Network should have just canned the episode entirely, especially if the network was truly concerned for the similarities of the content to the real-life tragedy in Virginia, and even more so since it showed the suicide,” continued Winter. “Waiting a week surely didn’t minimize the potential harm to the viewing audience — and it may have even maximized the harm by exposing children to this graphic scene. All the more reason why USA Network needs to commit to reforming the way it rates its shows.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter conducted prior to the shooting, Mr. Robot creator and showrunner Sam Esmail defended the scene and other controversial moments from the first season.
“There was never a choice in the script phase or in the production phase that we made that was gratuitous or to be showy or anything like that. It was always something in service of our story and our characters,” he said. “As long as we did that, USA was incredibly supportive.”
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