Will Forte is certainly no stranger to dark comedy. He played a Satan-worshipping villain in the 2019 horror-comedy Extra Ordinary. The premise of his sitcom The Last Man on Earth was that most of humanity had been wiped out by a virus, a situation that hits entirely too close to home in 2021. Even the MacGruber skits on Saturday Night Live typically ended with MacGruber dying in a fiery explosion. Forte has consistently walked the thin line of being edgy enough to be hilarious while not being overtly offensive. However, his latest project Expiration Date, a “dark suburban soap” that is currently in development, is currently coming under fire from mental health advocates.
Major strides have been made in mental health awareness in recent years, with celebrities and average people alike speaking out to raise awareness of mental health issues. Whether or not you believe there are certain topics that comedians shouldn’t touch on, certain mental health professionals have come out to protest Will Forte’s upcoming show Expiration Date for fear that it may glorify mental health issues, leading to increased rates of suicide.
Here’s what you can expect from the show:
What To Expect From Expiration Date
Will Forte is set to star in and produce Expiration Date, which is set to air on Peacock, an “over-the-top” streaming platform from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal. The show will also be produced by brothers Harry and Jack Williams, the duo that started London-based television production company Two Brothers Pictures. The Williams brothers have found smashing success in recent years, producing popular series like The Missing and Fleabag. The two brothers have been hailed by Lisa Katz of NBC as “two of the best creative minds in the industry.”
The series will follow the story of Robin, played by Forte, a man swept up in grief who finds a life insurance policy that covers suicide. The policy requires that Robin stay alive for one more year if his family is to receive the payout. Satisfied that his family will be financially taken care of, he takes out the policy and begins deciding how to spend the last 365 days of his life.
After seeing some of the rather dark pieces of media that Forte’s acted in, it’s not surprising that he would be willing to take on a show with such a premise. And the brand of black humor employed in Fleabag certainly suggests that Harry and Jack Williams are perfectly willing to push the envelope. However, people are beginning to speak out against the very airing of Expiration Date, calling it “wildly irresponsible” and fearing that it will glorify mental health issues in such a way that will push people closer to suicide.
Here’s the Problem
The problem with Expiration Date is that mental health professionals fear that it could push viewers further toward the brink of suicide. Certainly, this is a valid concern, especially since the world is in the midst of a global pandemic, which has exacerbated suicide risk factors in ways that we don’t fully understand yet. Factors like fear and anxiety about COVID-19 infection, loss of loved ones, isolation, disrupted care, domestic violence, alcohol and drug use, and economic recession are all results of the COVID-19 pandemic that could contribute to someone’s decision to commit suicide. A show with such a premise as Expiration Date really could not have come at a worse time.
The makers of the show have recently caught serious flak from Bill Smith, founder of Inseparable, a foundation devoted to ensuring that effective systems are in place all across the United States for dealing with mental health issues. When asked what he thought about Expiration Date, he said:
“What a wildly irresponsible and callous concept that will, no doubt, endanger countless viewers. Glamorizing suicide leads to contagion, that is a fact. At a time when our country is already suffering a mental health crisis compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left Americans’ mental well-being at a two-decade low, the last thing we need is a reckless show hinged on the question of ‘will he or won’t he’ succumb to the devastation of depression — an all too real and painful experience for millions of Americans. While we may not yet know plotline specifics, NBCUniversal would do well to rethink such a dangerous idea that could lead to an increase in suicide among viewers.”
Smith went on to say that he thinks the show should never see the light of day, and that Hollywood producers should educate themselves on what is helpful and harmful to people’s mental health.
Should Expiration Date Be Allowed to Air?
I’ve been a fan of Will Forte for a long time, ever since I first saw him on Saturday Night Live. As I mentioned before, I think he’s done an excellent job throughout his career of being edgy in a tasteful way. However, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to let Expiration Date take the air after hearing Bill Smith’s statement.
On the one hand, you have the argument that comedy should never be censored, and there’s a part of that I agree with. Comedy is meant to make people laugh, and often what makes people laugh are things that border on offensive or dark. If we allow censorship to put too big of a stranglehold on comedians, we’ll end up with comedy that is decidedly not that funny.
With that being said, the implications that the airing of Expiration Date might have are extremely grave. I would certainly argue that preventing real people from committing suicide is worth sacrificing some of the integrity of the comedic art form. If this show is going to indeed push people further toward suicide, I would say it shouldn’t air.
Despite the criticisms, it appears that NBCUniversal is moving forward with the development of the series. No release date has been set yet for its premier on the Peacock streaming platform; however, it does not seem like the production studio will be giving in to the demands to cancel the show before it even airs.
Should Expiration Date be allowed to air? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Help In the Effort To Prevent Suicide
Whether or not you think that Expiration Date should be allowed to air, I think we can all agree that we should be doing all we can to help prevent suicides across the globe. If you want to help in the effort to prevent suicide, here are some great organizations that you can get involved with:
Founded by the creators of the Academy Award-winning film Trevor, the Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ young people between the ages of 13 and 24.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
The Nation Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They offer educational programs in thousands of communities across the United States through their local partners and affiliates.
The Jed Foundation
Geared toward protecting emotional health and preventing suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, The Jed Foundation furnishes mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programs to more than 2,000 colleges and universities.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call 800-273-8255 immediately.