NBC’s position on whether a “Saturday Night Live” Hanukkah sketch will be repeated has suddenly shifted from “never again” to “never mind.”
Following a complaint from the Anti-Defamation League, NBC earlier this month vowed that a portion of a Dec. 4 “SNL” segment parodying the CBS Yuletide spec “And So This Is Christmas” would be edited out of all future repeats of the program (Daily Variety, Dec. 15). In a letter to the ADL, NBC East Coast entertainment and broadcast standards veep Roz Weinman agreed that a scene in the sketch referring to Jews as “having killed” Jesus was “problematic.”
But Monday, NBC did an about-face: Weinman issued a release stating that she had “reviewed the viewer response to the ‘SNL’ sketch” and that “it will air again unedited.”
“Today’s environment makes our judgment calls in these situations increasingly difficult because we must find a balance between being politically correct and being funny in a nonhurtful way,” she said. “In the case of the ‘And So This Is Hanukkah’ sketch, we have heard directly from the viewers of the show that they overwhelmingly felt that this sketch was a typical ‘SNL’ parody and was in the boundaries of this show’s humor. We regret if the material offended anyone.”
Weinman said the decision to change course was hers and that higher-ups such as NBC West Coast prexy Scott Sassa did not pressure her into lifting the ban. She did not try to hide the fact that the Peacock was doing a complete 180 on the matter.
“Am I guilty of a flip-flop? Yes,” she said. “I may have responded too quickly and to a certain extent overreacted. … But it really is a mine field that we have to walk through.
“We make thousands of calls every year,” Weinman added. “We try to do this with intelligence, common sense and some measure of reasonableness.”
Weinman said after further examining the complaints the ADL received, she believes that many of those upset didn’t actually see the sketch. Since Daily Variety first reported news of NBC’s original decision to ban repeats of the sketch, the Peacock has gotten numerous e-mails from Jewish viewers saying they weren’t offended, Weinman said.
The ADL Monday responded with a statement saying it was “saddened” by NBC’s new stand.
“NBC has chosen the low road for its standards,” ADL topper Abe Foxman said. “We had hoped they would have held to their original position. … We still believe our concerns are justified.”
As for NBC’s reasoning that regular viewers of “SNL” weren’t offended by the sketch, Foxman said the ADL had also “heard from viewers, most of whom are avid ‘SNL’ fans, who, nevertheless, believed a line was crossed. We hope ‘SNL’ and NBC will exercise greater sensitivity in the future.”
The “SNL” incident marks the second time this month the net has backpedaled on a content matter.
Earlier this season, the Peacock made a last-second call to delete the word “tamale” from an already-filmed seg of “Will & Grace” after Hispanic groups objected to its use in a scene between a white woman and her Latina housekeeper. When the episode was repeated a few weeks ago, however, “tamale” was restored to the scene, prompting protests from a Latino group.