From ’30 Rock’ to ‘Community,’ Who Decides What Old TV Episodes Are Too Insensitive to Keep in Circulation?

How TV platforms and producers are handling old episodes with blackface and other outdated, insensitive content

On Friday, “The Office” proved how far some older shows will go to wipe their slate clean of racially insensitive material, by re-editing one of its episodes to remove a scene featuring a character in blackface. That came the same week that other sitcoms — including “Community” “Scrubs” and “30 Rock” — all had episodes pulled that included characters in blackface.

Those subtractions come amid a larger push that has forced the producers and distributors of older shows to re-evaluate their content for things that may have seemed fine years ago, but look badly outdated in 2020. The decision to pull or re-edit episodes, or in some cases add a disclaimer, is often a collaborative one. At least, that’s the desirable approach.

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Tony Maglio

TV Editor • • Twitter: @tonymaglio

Tim Baysinger

TV reporter • • Twitter: @tim_bays