Timing is everything...
Here's the latest installment from my Open Letter column, timed for publication the very week, yea, almost the very day, my employer, Tribune Company, announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure debt.
Anyway, except for those folks standing in line for $600 touch-screen Blackberries (Who are these people? Who do they work for?), we're all in this together.
It's been rough here in TV land. I bet your lists got really long last year, what with so many parents out of work at the holidays because of the Writers Guild of America strike. Hope you were able to drop a few goodies down a few chimneys (and a few sacks of coal down a few others).
Just when Hollywood thought things might turn its way, in roared an economic downturn. Suddenly moguls discovered that their $10 million mansions were only worth $4 million, and lots of other folks discovered the true meanings of such phrases and/or words as "underwater," "buyout," "downsized," "right-sized" and "move over, that's my place on the ledge."
We added new terms to our language, like "credit default swaps," "derivatives" and "illiquid assets."
And we discovered that even guys in suits with flats on Fifth and Hamptons summer houses can get handouts from the government.
The mainstream news media got the president whom most newspapers endorsed, but lost advertisers, subscribers and viewers.
A little more than half the country was happy after the election; a little less than half was unhappy; and the happy ones were also a little unhappy, because the unhappy ones were still there -- and still unhappy.
Meanwhile, television lurched into a new season with struggling sophomore shows and far fewer new shows and found itself facing the imminent demise of a few sturdy old shows like "ER" and "Boston Legal," which ends tonight.
This all brings me to my new wish list. I know there's only so much room in the old sled, and Rudolph is getting a little long in the tooth, but I hope you'll find space for a few of my requests.
Because, jolly old St. Nick, we may never have needed you more than we do right now.
For the TV networks, please give them the wisdom to listen to their viewers instead of their friends, neighbors, cocktail-party pals and fellow Emmy voters. After all, no viewers, no ad money, no TV network. It's a simple formula.
For the mainstream news media, I wish more or less the same, only adding readers to viewers and "Pulitzer" to "Emmy."
For TV viewers, give them the patience to try new shows and hang in for a bit with them, the discrimination to find the gems among the dross, and (I mean this for myself as well) the willingness to watch at least a few commercials to keep the TV wheels turning.
For the future -- bring back the Western, the family drama, the funny but clean comedy and the variety show (but NOT with Rosie O'Donnell. More on that here). We liked 'em once, and I believe we still do.
The cookies -- and the, ahem, ingredients for the hot toddy -- will be in the usual place.
PS: While you're at it, could you fly over our men and women in uniform around the world, check to see that they're safe and well, and spread a little Yuletide cheer? Appreciate it.