NBC is the home of some of the biggest and longest-running hits on television, but the network has now had to pull an episode of one of its shows after complaints of anti-Semitism. A recent episode of Nurses featured a plot that saw an Orthodox Jewish patient refuse a bone graft to save his leg on the basis that it could have come from anybody, including "an Arab" or a woman, resulting in a backlash and NBC ultimately taking action.
The Nurses episode in question, called "Achilles Heel," aired back on February 9 on NBC and prompted enough of a backlash that THR reports NBC has decided to pull it from digital platforms and cancel all future airings. NBC is reportedly in conversation with Jewish groups but is not planning to issue an official statement about the episode, and the Season 1 finale of Nurses aired on February 23.
One of the organizations to take issue with the Nurses episode was The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish humans right organization with more than 400,000 member families in the United States. In a statement condemning the Nurses episode, the Center said:
The writers of this scene check all the boxes of ignorance and pernicious negative stereotypes, right down to the name of the patient, Israel – paiyous and all. In one scene, NBC has insulted and demonized religious Jews and Judaism. Overreaction? Orthodox Jews are targeted for violent hate crimes – in the city of New York, Jews are number one target of hate crimes in US; this is no slip of the tongue. It was a vile, cheap attack masquerading as TV drama. What’s NBC going to do about it?
NBC's response was ultimately to pull the episode, but NBC wasn't actually the first place where this episode aired. Nurses is a Canadian production that originally released on Canada's Global TV network, with all ten episodes airing in the early winter of 2020. NBC picked up Nurses for the United States when production complications meant that there was a shortage of original content on the airwaves.
In fact, NBC aired another Canadian medical drama in Fall 2020, with Transplant becoming a hit for the network without generating controversy like Nurses with the complaints of anti-Semitism. In fact, Transplant was renewed for a second season to air at NBC as well as in Canada at CTV; the odds of Nurses returning to NBC aren't great. Although Nurses has been renewed for a second season by Global, NBC isn't so short on original content anymore, and production is ongoing on its big shows, including more than one existing medical drama.
That said, the protests of anti-Semitism in this particular episode of Nurses weren't limited to NBC and the United States. B'nai Brith Canada, the oldest independent Jewish Human Rights organization in Canada, raised objections as well, with Chief Executive Officer Michael Mostyn saying:
The disturbing stereotypes present in this episode of Nurses are deeply damaging to Jews, especially Orthodox practitioners. We call on the producers to act responsibly and take accountability for this outrage. All of this could have been avoided if producers had thought to consult members of the Orthodox Jewish community before depicting them in this false and slanderous light.
The controversy around this particular scene from Nurses comes almost exactly a year after "Achilles Heel" originally aired on Global in Canada, with the NBC broadcast resulting in closer attention and scrutiny. With the episode taken down and removed from the schedule by NBC, the question now is whether Global will do anything to address the backlash.
Nurses was already renewed for Season 2 back in 2020, so it will be back on Global even if not on NBC barring a cancellation after the initial renewal. A Canadian series being cancelled despite a renewal isn't unprecedented, but only time will tell what the future looks like (or doesn't look like) for Nurses.