A real-life terrorist attack isn’t an appropriate source of humor. But some snippets of old movies and TV shows are bound to prompt cringe-inducing associations in the wake of an attack; still, viewers will understand the difference between a calculated insult and an unintended coincidence. So, while Fox executives showed commendable sensitivity in taking the unusual step of removing an old “Family Guy” episode that involved the Boston Marathon from the web, it was an unnecessary gesture.
Off-color jokes are the hallmark of the animated show, created by New England native Seth MacFarlane. In the episode, which aired last month, the main character wins the Marathon by running over other competitors in his car. In a separate sequence, he unknowingly makes friends with a terrorist.
Earlier this week, someone online produced an unauthorized remix of the episode, changing the sequence of events to suggest that “Family Guy” had predicted Monday’s bombing. That drew a deserved rebuke from MacFarlane. Later, though, Fox took down the real episode. The move probably spared some viewers an accidental jolt, but most would have understood that the episode predated Monday’s explosions.