I'm sending you this letter via e-mail, as well as posting it publicly on my Newsvine Column. Why? Because I don't really believe anyone from NBC actually reads e-mails from the regular folk. My time isn't well spent if it's wasted, and after having sent numerous e-mails to your company without ever receiving so much as a verification letter from you, I'm convinced that no one actually reads those e-mails. At least if it's posted on my column, I might get a few people reading what I have to say.
In case you couldn't already tell, this isn't fan mail by any stretch of the imagination. I, like millions of others, am outraged over NBC's poor treatment of Conan O'Brien, and I intend to have my voice heard regarding this issue, even if it's only my Newsvine readers who will hear it. I'm not a television producer. I'm not a reviewer (not yet, anyway). I'm not an angry actor or a scornful key grip. I'm one of those people that you often tend to overlook when you make your decisions at the corporate level... I'm a television viewer. Do you remember those?
I'm going to tell you the cold, hard truth about your late-night lineup. Let's start by discussing all four of your late night hosts. Jay Leno is hilarious to older people and young kids. But these people have school, have jobs, or are retired, and aren't usually watching at 11:35 pm, which is why his numbers started dropping, and why you made that switch in the first place. The generation that likes Leno started getting older, and stopped staying up late to watch him. Then you have Conan O'Brien, and I'm guessing his most loyal followers are in the 25 to 45 age bracket, because his comedy tends to lean toward them. And that's great, because those are the people who are watching TV at 11:35 pm. Then you have Jimmy Fallon, my second-favorite late night host. He appeals to people ranging from teenagers to thirty-somethings, so his time slot is suitable. Last but not least, you have Carson Daly. I'm not a particular fan of his, though he does have some good music guests. His time slot seems perfect as well. So after looking at everything presented to me, it seems as though Jay Leno is the odd man out.
Here's the solution to your problem, NBC. That's right, it's going to come from someone you've never heard of. Keep Conan, Fallon, and Daly in their time slots. Jay Leno? Either let him retire, or move him into an even earlier time slot. Move him down to 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm, which might conflict with some of your affiliate news programs, but so is the 10:00 pm time slot, right? If he's on earlier, his target audience will more than likely watch him more often. Another alternative is to move his show into the morning, where he might fit even better. Presto, you can keep all four hosts and no one will have much reason to complain, other than Leno of course. If you lose Leno, what's the problem? He's more connected so he'll be better off. He wasn't recently uprooted and forced to move clear across the United States. And really, how much longer will he continue before he retires?
NBC, you have repeatedly upset me with terrible decisions, decisions which have worn on your ratings and profitability. You canceled what is arguably the smartest television program in history, The West Wing, and didn't afford much time for the second-smartest show, Kings, to grow. And on the subject of Kings, you canceled it because of poor ratings, after having not put forward much effort in advertising the show, opting instead to pour your money into reality shows. You sold Scrubs to ABC, a move which slaughtered that show's vibes and comedic value, rather than allowing it to end on a good note. I can list dozens upon dozens of errors on your behalf which make me want to quit watching your network altogether, but this is already turning into quite a lengthy letter.
The bottom line: I decided months ago to never again watch an NBC premier, lest I be heartbroken when your awful programming department gives it the axe. I'll watch SNL and news programs on MSNBC, and I'll watch Jimmy Fallon if you don't move him around, but when Fallon retires, so will I. Get rid of Conan, and I will refuse to watch that time slot, partly out of principal, and partly because Jay Leno simply isn't funny or otherwise appealing to me.
Okay, all of my anger and hostility aside, I do have a genuine request for you, NBC. Two of them, actually. Please keep Conan O'Brien, and please become the network for smart people. Conan is the first late night host in history that I've found entertaining enough to actually watch every single night. Sure, I might put Jay Leno on my DVR if one of my favorite bands is performing, and I watch Fallon now because he follows Conan and is also hilarious, but if you get rid of Conan, I'll have little incentive to watch your network at night. As for my "TV for smart people" request, television is inundated with reality television shows and horrible contests that reward stupidity and generic talent. Why can't NBC be the one network that targets viewers of intelligence? Smart dramas like The West Wing and Kings. Funny comedies like Scrubs and 30 Rock. Banish reality shows like The Biggest Loser and embrace a smarter, classier audience. What have you got to lose? Your network is already so close to being in the toilet that people are already thinking to remember jiggling the handle. Become the network that people are proud to watch.
- A Conan O'Brien Fan and Disgruntled Viewer