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An Open Letter to Barbara Bloom


Dear Ms. Bloom,

On October 5, 2009, your network — CBS — will premiere a new version of the classic game show Let's Make a Deal as a replacement for the now canceled Guiding Light. To put it bluntly, I will not be watching.

You might be surprised by my reasons. Though in the grand scheme of things, you might not care. As a 44 year old Black man, I don't fit any demos that CBS or its advertisers care one whit about — though you ought to care about every viewer in these trying times for the networks. Nonetheless, you should know that I do not share the pitchfork & torches anger of the more vociferous Guiding Light's fans, who have vowed to never watch CBS daytime, or any show on the entire network, ever again.

Boycotting CBS is obviously their choice, but it strikes me as overkill. I don't feel the need to "punish" the cast & crews of The New Adventures of Old Christine or NCIS: Los Angeles, nor deprive myself of the pleasures of The Big Bang Theory or late night's funniest man, Craig Ferguson, all because CBS canceled a daytime serial that had been rumored to be headed to the chopping block due to low ratings for quite some time.

I am also not interested in shaking a finger and yelling at Les Moonves, Brian T. Cahill or the much maligned Ellen Wheeler for "ruining" Guiding Light any more than all that you have seen & heard already. That horse has most assuredly died and it makes no sense to beat it any further.

What I do think you should know is that I have been an off and on viewer Guiding Light since the 1970's. I officially became a fan in mid-1980's and have stuck with the show faithfully since the early 90's. That latter arc of time accounts for close to twenty years of weekday loyalty to the lives & loves of the citizens of Springfield — and San Cristobel for a good stretch — in an increasingly cluttered television landscape of court and talk shows and cable channels. 

Despite the availability of vast entertainment choices, nothing made me less interested in the trials and tribulations of the Lewises, Spauldings, Chamberlains, Boudreaux, Grants, Reardons, Santoses or Bauers. I kept watching GL through misguided producers, bad writers, inconsistent location shooting and shaky cams to glean those moments of humanity, heart, soul and the celebration of family. Through times mundane and extraordinary, that was the hallmark of GL at its best. Indeed, I championed GL right here on Daytime Confidential when much of the justified criticism against it was at its harshest. In that light ,Ms. Bloom, I am hardly what you might think of one of those "disgruntled" fans with an ax to grind.

As the show comes to its now inevitable conclusion, I am sad but not angry, disappointed but not upset. The fact of the matter is that with its dreadful ratings and demographic performance, it is a miracle Guiding Light wasn't axed half a decade ago. Though I, and the legions of fans the show still has left, wish it could continue in some form or other venue, the fact remains that 72 years of broadcast on radio and television is an astounding feat in which we can take some solace, whatever cold comfort that might be. Sadly, all of this brings me to explain why I will not be watching Let's Make A Deal.

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You see Ms. Bloom, I know what CBS is doing with this misguided game show revival. You're pulling what I euphemistically call "a Jay Leno." For years, NBC hasn't been able to produce a credible hit show at 10 p.m. and, instead of doubling and tripling their efforts to do better, Jeff Zucker & the dreadfully ineptBen Silverman threw up their hands and gave up. So The Jay Leno Show gets 5 hours a week in prime time and — even if the ratings fall into the toilet compared to the programming that previously aired at 10 o'clock  — NBC gets to declare "victory" because they have saved tens of millions in production costs and licensing fees.

So, too, is the decision to bring back a cheesy game show with the affable but hardly barn burning Wayne Brady as host. After all, CBS is keeping that afternoon spot for itself as opposed to ceding that hour to its afilliates. Like with Leno, even if LMAD brings in as few or possibly fewer viewers than the more expensive to produce Guiding Light, CBS still stands to profit off the cheap production costs. There is just one little hitch to what probably looks good on paper and tested well enough for you to give it the green light. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

As I am sure legendary ratings guru David Poltrack, Executive Vice President, Research and Planning for CBS, could no doubt confirm, with rare exception (ahem, The View) whenever a network cancels a soap, whatever replaces it performs worse in the Neilsen ratings and tends to drag down the remaining programming within its daypart time block as well.

It might not be coincidental that, as networks have shed soaps from their schedule, the networks' aggregate prime time ratings have eroded as well. I'm not suggesting a direct correlation, but the parallels between the axing of soaps & their viewers and their networks' prime time performance fortunes shouldn't be dismissed.

I think people like you, Ms. Bloom, and your bosses and counterparts tend to forget that soap viewers like me also watch prime time shows. Yes, CBS and its counterparts air prime time lineup promos during soaps, but in the new world of time-shifted viewing where people fast forward or delete commercials I think that you don't realize that a lot of people — especially those who watch daytime dramas in real time — are aware of what your selling.

With the exception of a few shows, I generally have no idea about what Fox is airing. I barely keep up with NBC's crappy prime time schedule, and I have to be reminded by friends (or the blaring headlines on about what is airing on The CW on any given night because I don't watch them during the day. However, because I watch ABC daytime, I am aware of Cougar Town, V, and Flash Forward, as well as the January return of Lost and the dreadful Grey's Anatomy. Because I watch As the World Turns & the soon-to-be departed GL, I know that The Mentalist has shifted to Thursdays, Medium is now paired with The Ghost Whisperer and The Good Wife looks smashing!

Ms. Bloom, that's what advertising is supposed to do — leave an impression and awareness even among those who tune it out. Soaps have always been a perfect advertising vehicle for millions of devoted fans to whom your network's and its sponsors' ads were reinforced day in and day out. Selling is why "soap operas" were created in the first place. Each one that is canceled leaves a void of viewers with whom your network and your advertisers could "create awareness" and "imprint consumer-based impressions", whether for a tv show or a bar of soap. I am one of those viewers.

As much as I understand the ratings and economic imperatives behind the decision to end Guiding Light, after September 18th I will become one less person for CBS and its advertisers to make an impression on during the hour in which Let's Make a Deal airs. You have created one less opportunity to tell me that Three Rivers has a special episode coming up or that Grissom is returning to CSI. This, in turn, might cause me to miss that new movie advert for which Warner Brothers paid CBS a Thursday night premium rate, in hopes that a moviegoer like me might turn up at an AMC theater the next day.

During LMAD's hour when I will be doing other things (like watching General Hospital), I will not glance up at the cheesy commercials for local advertisers or catch the breathless, overheated promos for our CBS affiliate's newscasts. I will be less than a blip in the grand scheme of things, but my understanding is that broadcast networks can't afford to lose any blips at all these days.

In conclusion, Ms. Bloom, by canceling Guiding Light and replacing it with Let's Make a Deal, CBS has done the one thing that no network wants to do. It has given me back 5 hours a week to do many other things that I was perfectly happy to do at other times when Guilding Light was on the air.

You ought to think about that when you and your colleagues make your upcoming final deliberations about the fate of As the World Turns.