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WRAL mutes ‘n-word’ in episode of ‘The Carmichael Show’ approved by NBC

Jerrod Carmichael, left, as Jerrod Carmichael, and David Alan Grier as Joe Carmichael in “The Carmichael Show.”
Jerrod Carmichael, left, as Jerrod Carmichael, and David Alan Grier as Joe Carmichael in “The Carmichael Show.” Chris Haston/NBC

Jerrod Carmichael told The Hollywood Reporter this week that he wanted viewers to hear the n-word in Wednesday night’s episode of “The Carmichael Show,” and that he had permission from NBC to air the episode unedited.

But if you were watching on the Triangle’s NBC affilliate WRAL-TV, you heard a lot of silence.

Viewers of the program took to Twitter Wednesday night to complain about the muting of the word. User @natthedem tweeted, “If @wral is going to continue to censor programming like #CarmichaelShow or #SNL, the LEAST they could do is tell the audience in advance.” @LBrothersMedia tweeted, “Jesus, WRAL you've muted half the episode because of the language. #CarmichaelShow.”

In November 2016, WRAL was criticized for muting several portions of a Dave Chappelle-hosted episode of “Saturday Night Live.” After that, the independently owned station said they would no longer use their mute button on “Saturday Night Live,” which airs at 11:30 p.m.

In an interview at that time, Steven D. Hammel, vice president and general manager at WRAL, explained the station’s policy, and said the station was trying to silence two words on their list of 10 unacceptable words. Hammel said one of those words was the n-word. The station has master control operators who monitor a feed from NBC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on a 10-second tape delay. When they hear an objectionable word, a button gets pushed and the result is about 8 seconds of silence.

“The Carmichael Show” airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday’s show as preceded by a parental advisory warning.

One viewer reported that WRAL muted the word five times, but missed a sixth time at the end of the episode.

In September 2015, the ABC sitcom “Black-ish” aired an episode about the use of the n-word, but self-censored and the word was bleeped from the network.

“The Carmichael Show” is a sitcom loosely based on the life of stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael. The show, which is set in Charlotte, has earned a reputation for tackling tough topics such as gun rights, the right to die, the Bill Cosby scandal, and Black Lives Matter protests.

Carmichael explained his intentions regarding the “n-word” episode, which he says was approved by the network, to the Hollywood Reporter:

“The intention is to genuinely explore and do it with as much integrity as we can so it's never just buzzwords, it's never us just saying it for the shock value. . . . I hope viewers realize there's a spectrum of perspectives on this. Like anything else, every voice on it is worth hearing, every voice on it is worth sharing and saying out loud and having discourse. If people talk to their families and friends about it, it lends itself to people having thoughts on it that they've never had before. That's what we all want.”

[Programming note: If you were relying on your DVR to catch “The Carmichael Show” for you, you might be out of luck. Many systems had tonight’s episode listed as last season’s Cosby repeat, so it did not record. “The Carmichael Show” Twitter account acknowledged the problem Wednesday night.]

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